Leeds United v Scunthorpe United: Ruthless Whites flatten the Iron

No hangover from Arsenal then. If anything, Leeds United are still intoxicated.

Three goals in half-an-hour made short work of Scunthorpe United and a joke of the theory that FA Cup and league fixtures do not mix well at Elland Road.

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Leeds have never quite shaken the accusation that their appetite for cup football last season ate into their bread and butter but it is not an argument that Simon Grayson will contest at length in the months ahead. Arsenal were forgotten on Saturday, albeit temporarily.

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A third-round replay against the estimable Gunners awaits United this Wednesday evening, a week and a half after the club's brave attempt to raze the Emirates Stadium. Had divided attention been rife within his squad, Grayson would have fallen between a rock and a hard place on the afternoon when the Championship returned to the top of his agenda.

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They emerged from Saturday's game without a scratch.

Scunthorpe, as Grayson never tired of mentioning, always led the agenda at Leeds, before the club's FA Cup tie against Arsenal and in the days that followed. An unexpected replay might have complicated the task of maintaining tunnel vision at Thorp Arch but it did not show. United's rout on Scunthorpe equalled the heaviest league victory of Grayson's managerial tenure, as if for good measure.

"The manager told us to put Arsenal aside," said Sanchez Watt, the scorer of the first of four unanswered goals. "We want to give Arsenal another good game but we've always been more focused on the league and on getting promoted."

Scunthorpe's scalp held more value for Grayson than that of Arsenal, an unashamed admission of where United's interest lies and how much the state of the Championship is feeding his ambition. Leeds are adept at teasing money and publicity from the FA Cup but their division is a scene of greater opportunity, more inviting that United thought it would be when the season began in August.

The toll threatened by the FA Cup was a downturn in form that dropped Leeds from a position of strength, one which is making promotion conceivable. Arsenal, in any case, have caused less of a stir in West Yorkshire than Manchester United did 12 months ago, and tickets for Wednesday's replay at Elland Road went on general sale after the conclusion of Scunthorpe's thrashing.

More than 25,000 supporters felt as compelled to attend a Category B league game on a blustery day.

But Scunthorpe, as Grayson knew well enough, are not Arsenal or anything of the sort.

Optimism at a club whose time in the Championship appears to be finite was drawn from an away record worthy of a higher Championship position than theirs, but a complete overview of Glanford Park makes grim reading. Scunthorpe's defence caved in three times in 13 minutes on Saturday, succumbing to Leeds without any great insistence on United's part. Grayson's players found Ian Baraclough's waiting to concede.

"This shows the gulf between the clubs," said the Scunthorpe boss at the end of a match which explained why his squad are in 23rd place while Leeds contemplate the possibility of rejoining the Premier League.

Eleven weeks ago, when a hat-trick from United's captain, Jonathan Howson, settled a more competitive fixture at Glanford Park, goal difference was the only margin between the teams but the landscape has changed drastically since then.

"Sometimes you have to hold your hands up," Baraclough said. "We were beaten by a better side."

That opinion was universally shared but it was not the same as saying that Scunthorpe had seen Leeds at their best. Parts of the first half rolled forward in a low gear, asking no more of a United team who were alive to Scunthorpe's errors and in the mood to exploit them.

Neither side were capable of a shot on goal before Watt scored in the 17th minute; 12 minutes later, Scunthorpe were beaten with an hour to play.

Watt's goal was his first for Leeds and an overdue moment of exposure for a winger whose loan from Arsenal has been at the mercy of injury and illness.

Grayson made the brave decision to select him ahead of

Ross McCormack against his parent club last weekend and was able to retain him on Saturday on the strength of his performance in London.

Watt's clinical finish broke Scunthorpe's back.

The 19-year-old escaped the clutches of Paul Reid, forcing the defender to lose his footing when the ball bounced between them, and Watt ran impeded to the edge of Scunthorpe's box before beating Joe Murphy with a shot which tore through the goalkeeper's left hand.

The stadium's reserve lifted and Scunthorpe's shoulders sagged amid the realisation that tactics built around a lone striker were no longer fit for purpose.

Three minutes later, Watt dispossessed Reid on the halfway line and found Robert Snodgrass in space in front of Baraclough's defence.

The Scot's sharp pass picked out Max Gradel's run and though Andrew Wright tried to cut across the winger, Murphy committed himself prematurely, giving Gradel the freedom of his box and time to walk the ball into the net. No player on the pitch was less in need of an open invitation to score.

It was plain to Baraclough that the afternoon might get worse before it got better. It did not improve at all before the final whistle.

With 29 minutes played, Eddie Nolan lost possession to Snodgrass and a heavy sliding tackle by Wright and Michael Collins succeeded only in nudging the ball to Bradley Johnson 20 yards from goal. The midfielder used the power in his left foot to force the ball into the corner of Murphy's net with the help of a deflection.

Johnson, Watt and Luciano Becchio might all have supplied further goals before half-time arrived. Scunthorpe's only reply was a backheeled shot from Collins which looped narrowly over Kasper Schmeichel's crossbar, at the end of a cross from Martyn Woolford. Grayson would have had no particular cause to panic had the ball crept underneath.

United's manager named three forwards on his bench, insurance against a crisis which never materialised, and the game was won long before Billy Paynter replaced the injured Becchio at the start of the second half.

McCormack joined the fray in the 66th minute, and Grayson doubtless saw the situation as an ideal occasion for either of his substitutes to score their first goals for the club, a milestone that both could do with passing.

It was rather his final replacement, Davide Somma, who rounded off Scunthorpe's defeat in the penultimate minute of the game.

Opportunities before his had been plentiful, and Murphy denied Watt with a two-handed parry shortly after half-time.

Paynter failed by inches to turn home a George McCartney cut-back and saw a low shot hit the legs of Somma on Scunthorpe's goalline, an indication that he would reach full-time empty-handed once more.

Not so Somma, who beat Murphy from a tight angle after picking up Gradel's pass inside the box, shortly after Jonathan Forte had hit the bar at the other end of the pitch.

In the meantime, Elland Road's ticket office was preparing for business, awaiting a flurry of takers for seats at Wednesday's replay.

"We've earned the right to think about that game now," Grayson said. High-profile or not, Arsenal are making hard work of holding his attention.

Leeds United: Schmeichel, Connolly, O'Brien, Bruce, McCartney, Snodgrass (McCormack 66), Howson, Watt (Somma, 81), Johnson, Gradel, Becchio (Paynter 46). Subs (not used): Higgs, Collins, Parker, Bromby.

Scunthorpe United: Murphy, Andrew Wright, Reid, Raynes, Nolan, Collins, Ibrahim, Togwell, Woolford, Dagnall (Godden 78), Grant (Forte 60). Subs (not used): Slocombe, Josh Wright, Williams, Cowan-Hall.

Referee: Fred Graham (Essex).

Attendance: 25,446.