Boro win essential if Palace are to be considered serious promotion contenders

News Shopper: Kevin Phillips looks like a very shrewd signing by Ian Holloway. PICTURE BY EDMUND BOYDEN. Kevin Phillips looks like a very shrewd signing by Ian Holloway. PICTURE BY EDMUND BOYDEN.

EAGLES blogger SAM ROSS believes victory over Middlesbrough this weekend is crucial if Crystal Palace are to maintain their promotion bid and also backs Blackburn to make a late surge for the play-offs.

WITH two back-to-back London derbies now behind them, it’s time for the Eagles to look towards the ‘business’ end of the season and start turning all their draws into wins.

Despite winning just two of their last 10 games, Ian Holloway’s side have luckily remained in the top six and even had a sniff of re-entering the automatic promotion places.

The next three matches are huge for Palace’s promotion chances, starting with Saturday’s encounter against Middlesbrough.

Boro could leapfrog the Eagles with victory and, after theirs and Hull’s victories last night, Palace really must win. Any more slip ups and we will not be fortunate enough to remain in the play-off places by the end of the month, with teams outside the top six ready to take our place.

There is certainly a buzz around Selhurst after the January transfer window and Kevin Phillips again proved how good an acquisition he was on Friday night.

I have been waiting for a clever and old head to come into the side for a while now and Phillips is arguably the first since Dougie Freedman.

In only two matches for Palace, it is already great seeing his movement off the ball and the quality he still has, despite being 39-years-old.

There is no doubt he will play a big role in Palace’s push for promotion.

We have lost only seven times this season, with table-toppers Cardiff the only team to lose less games and even they aren’t immune from sinking down the table this year.

Already 11 points clear of third place, many people would say Cardiff are odds on to play in the Premier League next season - but I certainly wouldn’t back them.

As their previous failings suggest, they can easily miss out on promotion and it will be solely down to themselves if they do so.

They are the best team in the league for me and in Peter Whittingham have the most gifted and consistent midfielder the Championship has seen in the last three years.

With the reappointment of Billy Davies, hopefully Nottingham Forest can put behind them the nonsense which has been happening at the City Ground this season and concentrate on football.

Despite being the third manager this season, Forest are just nine points off the play-offs and under Davies I expect them to mount a late push.

But the real team to watch out for right now is Blackburn.

They look very assured having finally found a manager in Michael Appleton who is able to control the club, and with the recent acquisition of DJ Campbell to partner Jordan Rhodes, they pose a real goal-scoring threat, something crucial for a successful play-off push.

Eyes should still be focused on securing automatic promotion for the Eagles and if it’s not achieved, a play-off place will come as a very sweet second best.

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