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May 27, 2013

Holloway thrilled with battling Palace

Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway praised his side's fighting qualities after watching a Kevin Phillips penalty earn them promotion to the Premier League in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

The Eagles were the better side throughout and missed chances before a Marco Cassetti foul on Wilfried Zaha provided the chance for Phillips to smash home the winner in the 105th minute.

"We fought and battled it out - we had a tough few weeks before the play-offs [when form slumped]," Holloway told Sky Sports. "We're in the Premier League now - so God help us.

"It's absolutely massive for the club. We've got plans to change the ground - it's getting a bit old in places - so I'm just delighted for everybody connected with the club. They're gentlemen, and I'm very privileged.''

Palace man of the match Wilfried Zaha said he had been desperate to leave Selhurst Park for Manchester United with the Eagles in the Premier League.

"It is all I wanted, to leave Palace knowing they were in the Premier League. I am speechless - exhausted and speechless," he added.

"We had so many fans here to support us. I am glad I was involved in all of this today.

"I have been at the club for ten years, and I have nothing but love for the club. Going to Manchester United is good for me, but I had to stay at Palace and get the job done."

Zaha gave Cassetti a torrid time throughout the match, but said he had been unhappy with the way in which he started the game.

"I was too nervous at first, but then I thought it was just a game," he said. "I played how I know."

Holloway said it was the nature of the game that the bigger clubs would end up signing players such as Zaha, adding: "The bigwigs always get the best players - that's just the way it is.

"We will try to fight to keep as many of our big players as we can, but as for Wilfried Zaha, he's got us into the Premier League. I couldn't care less about anything else right now."

Veteran goalscorer Phillips, 39, who indicated that this could have been his final match as a player, had lost in three previous play-off finals with Sunderland, West Brom and Blackpool.

He said: "It's fourth time lucky. It's my fourth play-off final, and I'm just delighted to get that feeling. To come on and get the winning goal against the club where it all started 20 years ago is a fairytale ending.

"I thought we certainly deserved to win the game. I felt confident, and I wanted to take it. I had in my mind where I wanted to put it and I thought I'd smash it, so I was delighted to see it fly into the top corner. If that is my last game, what a way to sign off."

Watford manager Gianfranco Zola said: "It is tough for me and for everyone connected to Watford. It hasn't been our best game, but to lose in extra time to a penalty is hard to take.

"They played well, and in the 90 minutes deserved more than us. Congratulations to them - they played very well."

Zaha was on "a different level," Zola said, adding: "In games like this, which are very tight, people like this can make the difference."

And he said Watford would repeat their promotion challenge next season, adding: "This is the start. Playing here was a big bonus for us, and it was not expected, but we are determined to be stronger next season, and we will be stronger."

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