STEVE McClaren says his Derby County team fully deserve to be in the Championship play-offs.
Results elsewhere meant a top-six finish for the Rams was assured before they beat Doncaster Rovers 2-0 at the Keepmoat Stadium last night.
Goals from on-loan midfielder George Thorne, his first for the club, and Chris Martin's 22nd of the season secured a third consecutive win and kept them third.
McClaren admitted he did not think reaching the play-offs was possible when he was installed as head coach at the beginning of October.
"We never dreamed it was possible," said McClaren.
"All credit to the players, they have grown together, become a team and now they are getting their rewards.
"We deserve to be there and we now have everything to look forward to.
"We aim now to finish as high as possible and then treat it as a cup competition."
It is Derby's first top-six finish since 2007.
The Rams players knew before kick off that Reading had lost at Wigan in the afternoon and Brighton's had draw at Huddersfield to cement the Rams' place in the play-offs.
Asked whether that was a factor in the below-par first-half display, McClaren said: "Perhaps they were too relaxed. I don’t know why the first half was like that, it just wasn’t us.
"We were not happy at half-time even though we had a quality goal from George Thorne, but we still needed a good save from Lee Grant at 1-0.
"The second half was better and in the end the difference was the quality of the finishing.
"Credit to Doncaster, they fought and made it difficult. When you are not playing so well you need a bit of quality, and Thorne and Martin provided that."
Derby could still finish second.
They are eight points behind Burnley with three matches left but McClaren reckons the Clarets will get over the line.
"You would expect them to do it," said Derby's head coach.
Burnley's last three games see them play Wigan, Ipswich, Reading.
Derby face Barnsley, Watford and Leeds.