LEEDS UNITED old boy Shaun Derry is adamant the Whites are firm automatic promotion candidates following their sparkling 2-0 success over table-topping Queens Park Rangers.
The industrious R's midfielder feels his former employers laid down a psychological marker on Saturday, with the hosts full value for the three points which shot them up to the dizzy heights of second spot in the npower Championship standings.
Having slipped under the radar so far this term, United will now find the glare of the spotlight heading their way after extending their turbo-charged unbeaten league run to nine matches by inflicting a first away defeat of the season on Neil Warnock's outfit, who copped just their second reverse in 21 league games.
It will now be question of how United handle the expectation, according to Derry.
The player admits, though, that he would love both clubs to claim promotion at the end of the season and enjoy a springtime party when they meet for the reverse fixture on the last day of the regular season at Loftus Road on May 8.
Derry, who turned 33 earlier this month, told the YEP: "They are contenders, without a shadow of a doubt. Especially after Saturday's performance.
"Psychologically, with them beating the top-of-the-league side, they are going to take a lot of heart from that.
"At the same time, it does bring pressure and we'll see how they respond.
"The expectation level will rise again at Elland Road and I hope it doesn't affect the players as, ideally, I'd love us both to go up."
"The crowd are second to none and the best in the league when they get behind you, they really are.
"When they are singing, it's like an extra man.
"Leeds have just got consistency and momentum from the last six or seven games and a togetherness in their play. I thought that showed brightly."
While being suitably impressed by the performance of the Whites, who sent their west London rivals tumbling to their first on-the-road league loss since early April, Derry felt Rangers were a pale imitation of the side who have largely swept all before them this term and taken the division by the scruff of the neck.
After surrendering their unbeaten league record against Watford the previous week, Rangers were handed another sobering reality check with Derry admitting the margin of defeat could have been much worse by the final whistle.
The player, who last week revealed it was an "honour" to play for United, with the engine-room grafter leaving for Crystal Palace in January 2008 after 78 appearances, added: "We were disappointed with the result, obviously.
"You don't want to lose anywhere but, at 1-0, we felt we were very much in the game and we felt we were the better side coming out of half-time.
"But goals kill you and they scored at the right time.
"And, come the end, we were perhaps hanging on and it could have been three or four. It was disappointing."