Tactics to survive late goals

Why is it that when your team has been cruising all game the last 10 minutes sees them lose shape, control and late goals? You can often be just a goal up and disaster strikes just when the final whistle is in sight. Pressure brings its own problems but there are things you can do to stop those late goals going in.

Sounds easy! But we can all think of games when even the very best clubs in the world let in late goals that change the course of history. Joy turns to anguish as the ball sits in the back of the net and all the hard work has been undone.

Even at training it happens. Last night one of the second teams was beating what was supposed to be a more developed side 2-1 with a minute to go… they lost 3-2 and all fell to the floor in despair that they had let in crazy goals (their words not mine!). Twenty minutes of great play let down by a minute of madness.

So how do you and I prevent that happening to our teams? You need players to practice the situation so that they have something in their locker when they need to stand up to the pressure of holding on to a slender lead.

These are the sessions I use with my players to give them the tactics and the confidence to keep the game in their favour:

One of the best ways to do this is to create a scenario that your players have to act out. This one is my favourite… Your team is 1-0 up but your opponents have a two-man advantage. One nil up two men down is a game to teach each team the importance of setting out the tactics to hold on to a lead – give your players ownership of the game and watch them work out their own tactics.

Tactics are a vital part of game management whether you are hanging onto a lead or need to score because you are losing. Half time is usually a great moment to get across your thoughts and to give the team the confidence to hang onto a lead, read my advice on How half time tactics can make all the difference.

Taking control of the game means making sure all your players are committed for the full match and don’t take their foot off the gas. They need to be first to every ball. Win the ball is a great session to get them focused and gives them the confidence to see the game out.

For the older age groups you also need to get them focused on winning balls in the air when the opposition are desperate to score a goal and will try any means possible to break your team’s resolve. Win the first header is a fantastic way to get players to make sure they are not sitting back and inviting their opponents to come at them. You want them to Win the first header and take control of the game.

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