Leeds United: We're not Gunner lose league focus - Grayson

Simon Grayson made a point of telling anyone who would listen that Leeds United's appearance at Arsenal was a sideshow for his players, albeit a spectacular one.

Yesterday morning he began the process of proving that Scunthorpe United shone more brightly on the club's radar.

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Championship football, he stated repeatedly last week, was more relevant to him than the FA Cup and it is Grayson's hope that one competition will not suffer at the hands of the other.

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United's fabulous performance at Arsenal was tempered by the ill-deserved concession of a last-minute equaliser; it will be no consolation at all if two or more points go begging in Leeds this weekend.

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Grayson could not help but speak about Scunthorpe within minutes of the conclusion of Saturday's third-round tie at the Emirates Stadium.

"I said beforehand that the most important game out of Arsenal and Scunthorpe was Scunthorpe," he said. "That's still the case. It's our bread and butter."

United's manager might have expected the dust to settle on the FA Cup after full-time at Arsenal, but a performance in keeping with Leeds' inspired contribution to last season's tournament maintained its inclusion on his agenda.

Arsenal will travel to Elland Road for a third-round replay next week, and a West Yorkshire derby with Huddersfield Town awaits in round four if Leeds succeed in delivering the upset they threatened so dramatically in London.

The sole necessity for Grayson, meanwhile, is a Championship victory at Elland Road on Saturday, a first in five league matches contested by his squad. Leeds were unbeaten in 12 games before their loss at Cardiff City seven days ago but their four fixtures after Christmas failed to yield a single win.

Three points accrued from 12 on offer pulled United back within the reach of several clubs beneath the Championship's top six positions. United hold fifth place but all five of the teams beneath them have games in hand, three in the case of Nottingham Forest.

The division's unpredictability is such that points on the board are likely to be more valuable this season than extra fixtures but Grayson left no doubt about the importance of Saturday's clash with Scunthorpe, a side routed 4-1 by Leeds at Glanford Park in October and whose Championship status is in serious peril.

"We had our appetite (for Premier League football) whetted last year when we played Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool," Grayson said. "Arsenal's been another great experience for us but, as I've said over and over again, more important than that is Scunthorpe.

"The lads will have their focus on that game now, with Arsenal to come again.

"I'd have swapped any result against Arsenal for three points against Scunthorpe and we've achieved part one of what we needed to do this week. I want a result on Saturday as well.

"It's to the players' credit that they haven't taken their eye off the ball since the draw was made. They were warned that if they concentrated on the Arsenal game then they wouldn't play in it, they'd be sat in the stands. But they've got a good attitude and a calmness about them, and that was probably reflected in how we played against Arsenal.

"Some people felt that the cup was a hindrance to us last season, but there were many other contributing factors in the slight dip we had.

"I want the players to look at the experience of playing Arsenal as an example of what we can do in the future."

Twelve months ago, Leeds followed their remarkable FA Cup victory over Manchester United with a subdued home fixture against Wycombe Wanderers and a long away trip to Exeter City, one of League One's many outposts.

In modest surroundings and on a pitch that was virtually waterlogged by Devon rain, the club suffered a sobering 2-0 defeat.

Scunthorpe do not carry the biggest of Championship profiles but Elland Road is likely to see a sizeable crowd on Saturday for a category B fixture.

United's last two home matches have attracted attendances of over 30,000 and familiarity with large crowds was why Grayson anticipated a nerveless display from his players in London and why he felt confident about how his squad would fair at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur last season. This weekend's fixture should not be the atmospheric comedown that Exeter was a year ago.

Leeds goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said: "It's no different playing at the Emirates than it is at Elland Road. Playing at great stadiums and in front of great fans is what you're in football for. You want to be at these venues and it's just another one for us.

"Elland Road is a great place, an amazing place to play. The fans make it special. They're always magnificent and they're always unbelievable. But that's Leeds for you. That's what they do."

Schmeichel's performance was in no small part responsible for the replay earned by United on Saturday and the gains they expect to make from next week's replay.

Regardless of the outcome, Leeds will pull in significant funds from a second meeting in 10 days with one of the Premier League's most high-profile clubs.

Even after Cesc Fabregas' late equaliser at the Emirates Stadium, Schmeichel was called upon to save a shot from Denilson with his fingertips and avert the harshest of defeats. He brushed off the save afterwards, saying only that "it's what I'm there for".

Leeds began selling tickets for the replay yesterday morning and the assistance of a home crowd will be seen as a factor in their favour.

But Schmeichel said: "I don't think it gives us the edge. It gives us a lift but not an edge because Arsenal are a great team. We'd expect them to come and have a lot of possession. But we're confident that given the chance we'll score goals.

"I think we should be confident against anybody at Elland Road. The atmosphere there can be very intimidating. Arsenal will be used to playing in that sort of atmosphere but we're confident."

ELLAND ROAD FUTURE: For 16-year-old striker Jack Clarke.

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