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1:00 AM UTC Feb 24, 2017
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By ESPN Staff

Delight buoyant as Sunderland look for promotion

Sunderland boss Roy Keane heads for Crystal Palace with his mission very much on track.

The 35-year-old former Manchester United captain took over at the Stadium of Light in August with Sunderland struggling at the foot of the Championship, and immediately set his sights on the long haul to the business end of the division.

Four months on, the Black Cats sit 11th and are within four points of the play-off places having established a foundation.

Keane and chairman Niall Quinn will attempt to add fresh momentum during the January transfer window, but the manager is satisfied with what has happened to date, even if he remains hungry for bigger things.

Keane said: 'The first challenge was definitely just to get away from the bottom of the table. We could not get ahead of ourselves. We have done that and now the next challenge is to get into the play-offs.

'But I knew we were going to be playing catch-up for most of the season. We are 10 points behind a couple of the top teams and that is a lot of points.'

Sunderland will run out at Selhurst Park defending a seven-game unbeaten run, although only a remarkable fightback at Burnley last weekend extended that record.

Trailing 2-0 with 10 minutes remaining, goals from Grant Leadbitter and David Connolly salvaged a point as Keane's men showed the character which will serve them well in their push for promotion.

The manager said: 'It is amazing what a couple of results can do for a team. You have got to have faith in each other and trust each other and no matter what has gone on, you have got to keep going to the end.

'That is what I have tried to instil in the club and in the players. Half the battle is what going on between the ears. You have to tell the players, 'You have got to keep going, and you will get your just rewards'.

'We have not played particularly brilliantly, I have to say, but we have had patches where we have been exceptional and we have scored some good goals.

'That never-say-die attitude is something I am delighted with. I thought it might take a little bit longer to build on, but the players have been brilliant.

'But we have achieved nothing yet. We are in the middle of the table in the Championship, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

'But as long as we keep going to the end, like we did last week, we have got a hell of a chance.'

Keane could be without striker Stephen Elliott as he battles against a hamstring injury, but otherwise has no fresh selection problems.