Create your own Fergie Time

Scoring last minute goals can be due to the opposition tiring or suddenly becoming less attacking and sitting back hoping for the final whistle – but it can also be because your team is putting in a big effort to score a winner or to rescue a point with clever use of tactics.

Remember when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager of Manchester United and the team scored so many late goals to win games. It became known as Fergie Time – “Last-minute goals encapsulate my history at United,” said Ferguson in 2014. “I love them. I could talk about them all the time.”

It happens in other sport too. On Sunday I watched the San Francisco 49ers come back in the final minutes to win the NFL game against the Cardinals, and a very exciting finish that saw players drop passes and panic where they hadn’t before. Both of the 49ers final two scores came with under 40 seconds left on the clock.

It is a fantastic feeling when for most of the game if your team has been losing but come the final few minutes they score to either grab a point or to win the game in a thrilling last gasp finale.

One way to demonstrate the impact of increasing tempo is to progress a small-sided training game by making it one or two-touch only. This will increase the pace that the ball is knocked around and force players to move to receive it more quickly. Once they have got to grips with this, when you call for that final push they will know what is required. Try Score one touch, it’s a great game to get players to take tired defences to task.

Formations can also be altered for that final push. If you’re holding your opponents comfortably enough at the back it can be a good idea to send a defender up, leaving one less in defence, or take one off and put an extra striker on. Free to attack releases your defenders but remember take care that the midfield remains intact and is still in a position to retain possession to thwart any counterattacks.

Pushing a midfielder into attack is another option but the risk is that you might lose the control of possession that you need to unleash the final surge. Explosive in midfield focuses on the way Luca Modric of Real Madrid attacks at pace from midfield but is always ready to defend.

Rather than lumping the ball upfield, it’s also worth reminding your players that there’s nothing wrong with a long pass into space provided it’s a deliberately played ball rather than just a frantic punt. Getting it wide in front of quick wingers can also really stretch tired opponents and open things up in the last few minutes, and long diagonal passes when timed right can be really penetrating. Use Long pass game to train your players to hit a team-mate with pinpoint accuracy.

Whatever you do there are risks involved and remember to remind players after the game that if it hasn’t worked, or if you have been caught out by a counterattack, that it was a risk you were aware of and felt worth taking. Make sure they know that it was your decision if it fails so they don’t blame themselves. And if it works, give them all the credit for digging deep and doing a great job.

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