Leeds United v Scunthorpe United: Whites league form is no real surprise - Raynes

Scunthorpe United's saving grace last season was their record at Glanford Park.

Thirty-seven points accrued in the comfort of their own stadium made Scunthorpe impervious to relegation from the Championship on the day when Sheffield Wednesday went down in flames.

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The club's league position is so often dictated by the quality of their home form, and the past decade has defined Glanford Park as an uncharitable venue. There is no shortage of bewilderment over the damage caused to that reputation since August.

Scunthorpe completed the first half of their season last week with the worst home record in the Championship and a ranking befitting of that.

Five points taken from 11 matches on home turf is an apt explanation of the underlying problem affecting their players and their manager, Ian Baraclough.

"Your home form's got to be good if you're going to stay in this division," said Baraclough in early November. "At the moment it's not good enough."

His frank admission came in the wake of a 4-1 loss to Leeds United, the heaviest league defeat suffered by Scunthorpe. Their record at Glanford Park has scarcely improved since that warning and it might suit Baraclough to find himself renewing hostilities with Leeds at Elland Road tomorrow.

Away victories, perversely, are the forte of a squad who amassed only four last season.

"There's no real explanation for it," said Iron centre-back Michael Raynes. "I can't put my finger on one thing and say 'that's where we're going wrong'. The club are usually strong at home, so we're all a bit confused.

"You try not to think too deeply about these things but the players obviously talk about it. You can't ignore it.

"I experienced something similar at Stockport County, where we couldn't buy a win for months, and you tell yourself that a record like ours will pick up in time.

"It needs to get better, that's for sure. But we've got as many points now as the club did at this stage of last season and it's not like we're struggling for wins in general.

"The flip side is that we can go to Elland Road knowing that we've done the business at quite a few grounds like that this season."

It is all the information Simon Grayson needs about Scunthorpe's approach to tomorrow's game. They are too seriously exposed at the bottom of the Championship to attempt damage limitation, at a time when Raynes admits his club "need points fast".

Reading, Sheffield United, Hull City and Burnley are among the six sides beaten by Baraclough's squad on their travels in the past four months.

United's away record is only marginally superior to Scunthorpe's but their consistency at Elland Road tells in the 18 points and 17 places that lie between the teams. When Leeds travelled to Glanford Park at the end of October, they were separated only by goal difference which favoured Scunthorpe.

A victory inspired by Jonathan Howson's first professional hat-trick was an epiphany for Grayson and his squad, the first of 12 league matches without defeat.

It is entirely because of that form that Leeds will defend a play-off position this weekend while Scunthorpe worry about feeling their way towards 21st place.

If surprise exists about Leeds' league position, Raynes does not share it. The 23-year-old saw enough of the club in League One to know that the Championship would suit their style.

"I expected them to make a big impact," he said. "Some people saw them as an unknown quantity, but they weren't to me. I'd played against them for Stockport in League One and their team was full of class – Luciano Becchio, Robert Snodgrass; lads who were obviously good enough to climb up the leagues.

"You could maybe say that they've taken to the league more quickly than they might have done, but it's no great surprise. It won't surprise me either if they stick around near the top. They're been on form for a long time now.

"I'm not sure we deserved to lose 4-1 to them (in October), but they showed then that they've got players who can turn a game in an instant. They were clinical and our defending wasn't perfect. That's been the way for us at home all season."

Scunthorpe might feel inclined to keep Howson on a short leash tomorrow but it is Becchio, United's most prolific goalscorer, who Raynes will pay particular attention to.

The pair have crossed paths several times in the Football League, though rarely without the pace of Jermaine Beckford complicating matters. Becchio was once the foil for Beckford's finishing touch, but Raynes came to expect more pressure and stress from the Argentine forward.

"Becchio's a 90-minute player," Raynes said. "He never leaves you alone. Beckford scored a lot of goals but you'd have periods of game where he wasn't really a threat. Becchio's always in amongst you.

"It seemed to me that a lot of Beckford's goals were down to Becchio's work. He's a very unselfish striker and his work ethic deserves the praise it gets, but he's top dog this season and strikers like that."

Scunthorpe have won at Elland Road before, but neither Grayson nor Baraclough were alive at the time.

Their 4-1 victory in 1961 is so long ago as to be immaterial and the immediacy of tomorrow's match will be felt by both managers. In Grayson's case, it is United's chance to redress their only defeat in 13 league matches, sustained at Cardiff City 10 days ago.

Leeds have not been hampered recently by clubs arriving at Elland Road with the intention of shutting up shop. QPR, Portsmouth and Middlesbrough all attacked their fixtures in Leeds with a suitable degree of ambition.

Scunthorpe's attitude is less predictable with their squad caught between an urgent need for results and the fear of exposing themselves recklessly against a side who always score goals.

But Raynes insisted: "I don't think there's any point in going there and sitting back. It's not what we do.

"You can't play for a 0-0 draw at Elland Road and when you've had as many good results as we have away from home, there's no reason to.

"We need points fast and you've got to give yourself a chance of taking them tomorrow."


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