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Palace at full strength

May 13 2004

Iain Dowie

Iain Dowie

As the marathon Division One season reaches its "uphill finish", Iain Dowie has a full squad to take into the play-off semi-finals, by Joseph O'Shea.

Having clinched sixth-place finish, Palace take on Sunderland on Friday and Monday to decide who will make the showpiece final at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium on Saturday, May 29.

Dowie said: "We are into the play-off by two clear points and that is a monumental achievement. Now we have got two fantastic games and the possibility of a third."

This season Mick McCarthy's side have already played 55 games, to Palace's 50, but Dowie insists exhaustion will play no part.

He said: "It's a marathon with an uphill finish, but it's the same for both teams. It's a hellish season this Division One.

"Sunderland are an excellent side, the third best side in the league so they are better than we are, but they weren't better than us the last time (when Palace won 3-0 last month), so we'll see."

"I can't wait for the games, they will be big occasions for everyone associated with the club."

Sunderland will welcome back captains Jason McAteer and George McCartney. Both were left out on Sunday by Mick McCarthy who has already lost Stephen Wright, Julio Arca, Matt Piper and Paul Thirlwell for the play-offs.

Meanwhile, the Football Association has confirmed that away goals will not count in this year's play-offs.

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