Leeds United: Whites have bench mark of success - Miller

Davide Somma epitomises the depth of Leeds United's squad.

Ranked as their leading goalscorer as recently as last month, the South African international is suddenly struggling to force his way onto the pitch.

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United's manager, Simon Grayson, discovered on Saturday that he has more strikers than he can squeeze into even the most attacking line-up.

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It is not the only area of his team that is heavily subscribed. As an unused substitute against Crystal Palace, Somma was closer to the frontline than Sanchez Watt, who failed to make the squad of 18.

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The value of Leeds' bench became apparent in the final quarter of a Championship fixture which Palace were threatening to win. Grayson was able to call upon Lloyd Sam and Ross McCormack before latterly involving Billy Paynter in a full-blooded attempt to rescue a result.

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His wide range of weaponry will be used to crack one of the best home records in the division tomorrow.

Burnley cannot buy a victory outside Turf Moor, the only club in the Championship without an away win, but in the comfort of their own ground the contrast is glaring, showing a home record that is bettered only by Queens Park Rangers.

Seven visiting teams have been beaten at Turf Moor, most recently Derby County a fortnight ago. Leeds coach Ian Miller said Burnley's display in that game was "probably the best team performance we've seen this year" but he was hardly disenchanted by the style of United's victory over Palace. "We were excellent," Miller said. "Very decent."

Again in Lancashire, all four of Grayson's strikers are likely to be used in some form, strings to the bow that has guarded Leeds from defeat for seven successive matches.

It is a far cry from the first day of the season when Grayson was left to choose between Luciano Becchio and Mike Grella, a forward who is currently on loan at Carlisle United.

"The big thing we've got now is our bench," Miller said. "We've got players on there who mean that if we're still in the game after an hour, we can always win it.

"In this league the games get really stretched after 65 or 70 minutes and if you've got players who can come off the bench and add to what you've got, it's a big weapon.

"Earlier in the season we were stretched with injuries and suspensions. Robert Snodgrass is a case in point. He had a wonderful pre-season but then got a really bad injury in Norway. I actually thought it was worse than it was and he took a little bit of time to get back. But in the second half last Saturday, he was fantastic.

"The lads are buzzing at the moment. They're at it and they're bright. That's what you want and that's what happens when you go on these little unbeaten runs. You get momentum behind you and the team more or less picks itself, aside from a few decisions that the manager has to make.

"I've been in football a long time and, as someone once said to me, it's a great game when you're winning. You've got to enjoy winning.

Everyone's happy – the supporters, the players and the staff. More importantly, the players are confident. That's what football comes down to."

United's confidence is a natural symptom of their form and an undefeated sequence which began on October 30. The club have not shown such consistency since January 16 when a 2-0 defeat at Exeter City set alarm bells ringing midway through last season.

QPR are the one side significantly beyond their reach, nine points better off and due at Elland Road next weekend.

A brace from Becchio completed United's fightback against Palace and defended his position as Grayson's first-choice striker in a formation which includes only one.

Miller said the Argentinian's prolific strike rate was a due reward for the selfless contribution made by him in his two-and-a-half years at Elland Road, and he shares the opinion that an extension of Becchio's contract would be good business on the part of the club.

"Luciano's a joy to work with," Miller said. "A low-maintenance player who gives you everything he's got in every single game.

"You hope that players like that get the reward with goals because they do a lot of unselfish work around the box while other people get the credit.

"He's been terrific from the start of pre-season and I think the change of system has helped him as well. He's not doing less work but he's doing more focused work. He's more central now and in the past he did a lot out wide when he was playing with Jermaine (Beckford). He did all the work and Jermaine was the predator in the box.

"What you see with him is that he's clearly enjoying his football. He always gives you total commitment but I think he's enjoying being the main goalscorer as well. Strikers like that and they like having pressure on them. We're giving him chances and he's converting them.

"He's stepped up to the plate and he looks as if he's at home in the Championship. We love him to death and we want him to stay."

Unlike Burnley, United's results do not differ greatly between home and

away fixtures. Suggestions of a complex in games at Elland Road have been convincingly answered by deserved wins over Palace and Bristol City.

Miller was pleased to see the crowd maintain their support last weekend, despite Palace leading until the 81st minute. Leeds will benefit from another large turnout tomorrow, with 4,000 away tickets already sold.

Miller believes a win over Burnley would be a feather in United's cap, achieved against the one club who dropped out of the Premier League in May without crippling financial concerns.

"They're a very good side," Miller said. "We watched a DVD of when they played Derby and that's probably the best team performance we've seen this year.

"They were in the Premier League last year and they've not lost many players. They've got a good home record and they'll be a handful. It's a really good test for us."

THIRD IN A ROW: Leeds United captain Liam Cooper is given his marching orders following his late tackle on Millwall's George Saville, United's third red card from their last three games. Picture by Tony Johnson.

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