Palace manager Ian Holloway said he never doubted his players after they clinched their place in the Championship Play-Off Final.
The Eagles’ boss was delighted with his team’s performance in the 2-0 victory over Brighton, which set up a Wembley showdown with Watford on 27th May.
Two goals in the final 20 minutes from Wilfired Zaha sent almost 2,000 travelling Palace supporters into ecstasy at the Amex Stadium, as Holloway’s side upset the odds to beat their bitter rivals in a nail-biting semi-final second leg.
Talking to the media after the game, the Selhurst Park chief was proud of the way his players responded after going on a run of nine games without a victory – which started after that 3-0 defeat at the Amex in March.
Holloway said: “Now I think we're feeling much better about ourselves. It's difficult when you come into a club and everything's rosy, I'm not used to it.
“Every one of them burst their heart. They were brave. A couple of weeks ago they didn't feel like that because things weren't going for us. We'd lost our 30-goal talisman [Glenn Murray], everyone wrote us off but you can't do that.
“I think we’d learnt from what has been going wrong lately. I thought they showed courage, bravery to take on a team that is in as good form as Gus’s boys are. They had a swagger about them. It looked pretty awesome their shape and everything, but we kept our discipline.
“They carried it out to the letter, we had to do it and every one of them and every sub who came on. I’m very, very proud of our football club to be able to come here with the atmosphere that this ground created.
“But I thought they were terrific and we beat a very, very good team. Perhaps my supporters won’t like it if I say that but I believe we did. They were excellent but we were that little bit better.”
Holloway was delighted with Zaha's diving header for the opening goal – which resulted from a tactic he had discussed with his two wingers, Zaha and Bolasie, in the build-up to the game.
The boss said: “We got the goal at the right time, Wilf got a diving header. I believe Wilf is going to be a match winner at the very top, top level and I think he wanted to still keep playing well for us. I thought you could see that.
“But if you ask those two honestly what have I been saying to them, ‘when one gets half a yard can one of you please cross it and can the other one get inside the full-back’ and what happened?
"I thought it was Kagisho Dikgacoi who scored. I didn’t believe for one minute Wilf would have got in there with a diving header but he just laughed in there ‘gaffer did you see what I just did?’.
“I went ‘yep – were you inside the full-back?’ Yep. But it was going to take something like that. It was a brilliant cross, a brilliant move.”
Holloway was happy to prove his critics wrong and said he never doubted his ability as a manager, despite Palace’s stuttering form in the build-up to the play-offs.
He added: “How close has this one been this season and how wrong was everybody to write us off because we’d lost a few in a row?
“I’m delighted we’ve come to the hardest place ever and we’ve shown all sorts of strength of character.
“Did I doubt my lads? No I didn’t. Did I doubt myself? No. Other people did and who cares?”