Leeds United: Run-in starts with Scunthorpe, for me - Lorimer

The third round of the FA Cup – or, more accurately, the league game which comes after it – is the point at which the run-in begins.

This is when I start counting down the fixtures and following every move in the league table.

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Players and managers will tell you that there's plenty of football left in the season, and naturally they're right. But Leeds United's 30th Championship match takes place on February 5 and it won't be long before we're talking about 10 games to go.

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By then we should be able to say which clubs have a serious claim to promotion and which are in danger of bombing out of the division.

It was revealing, though not at all surprising, to hear Leeds' manager, Simon Grayson, say time and again that he'd have sacrificed a win at Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend for a victory over Scunthorpe United tomorrow.

That, to me, was an indication of how strongly he believes in his squad's chances this season and how focused he is on defending their position inside the top six.

I've no doubt at all that he sees the play-offs as a definite and achievable aim.

To that end, it would do him no favours at all to watch a fabulous display at Arsenal and then soak up a mediocre performance against Scunthorpe.

I can't go so far as calling tomorrow's match a must-win game – we're not quite into that territory yet – but it's the only outcome Simon can accept.

I appreciate that no game is easy, and Scunthorpe have much to fight for, but you don't have to look hard to find vulnerability or a lack of form in their league record. It's a prime fixture for a club near the top of the Championship.

The implications of a poor result at Elland Road could be quite severe.

It would certainly leave United's players facing a frustrating end to the month. Leeds go to Portsmouth next weekend, but they do not have another league game until the first day of February.

Unless they upset Arsenal in Wednesday's replay at Elland Road, they will experience a quiet spell at a time when they might feel the urge to get out on the field and get more points on the board.

Intervals in the season are never so nice when you go into them feeling dissatisfied with your form.

The club's last four league games have failed to generate a victory and that's something Simon will want to address tomorrow.

It seems ridiculous to mention that statistic when Leeds were recently unbeaten in 12 matches, but it's hard to make rapid progress when wins arrive irregularly.

Realistically, United are going to need 30 points from 20 games to have a firm chance of finishing inside the top six and every victory is a major step in that direction.

This weekend's result is crucial but I have to say that I feel confident.

The crowd at Elland Road should be up for it, with a fantastic clash with Arsenal behind the club and another one to come, and history shows that these are the games which teams who win promotion take full advantage of. Scunthorpe have no chance of beating Leeds to the play-offs, but they can certainly do damage to our hopes of getting there.

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