How to play against a ‘bigger’ team

“Look at the size of the team we’re playing! They are huge…”
That was the comment that greeted me when I turned up at the weekend for our Under 17s match against an Under 18s team in the county cup.

Players line up for minute silence

Teams line up for Remembrance Sunday minute silence

It wasn’t the attitude I was hoping to see! But I can quite understand it. In the back of the players minds already was the fact that these boys were older and now in the flesh seemed much bigger – although in reality there was not a lot in it.

So it was now necessary to get into the boys minds that age and size were irrelevant in this instance and that they could hold their own in the game by playing the kind of game they usually did. Keep possession, make use of the wings and be generally positive right throughout the team.

The game started brightly for our team and the boys began at a high tempo – they were running through their opponents at will and after just 10 minutes found themselves 2-0 up.

The team talk before they kicked off and the determination of the boys to play their own game had given them the springboard to controlling the first half and making the older boys look slow and left them resorting to long ball up the pitch.

The second half started differently though and the other team were now in the ascendancy. They created a couple of chances but on the break we cut them open and scored again – 3-0. I thought the heads of the opposition would drop at this point because it is difficult to come back from 3-0 but they hit back quickly and made it 3-1.

Now they had the confidence to attack quickly and with an urgency that caught my players out – there was some frantic defending and it was a long 10 minutes before the storm broke and the Under 17s came back into the game.

The last 10 minutes was relatively easy and the game ended in a 3-1 win. And it was great that the referee had little to do because even in the frantic periods of play both teams played fairly and let play flow. It made it a great game to watch – unlike the adult game going on at the same time that seemed to be constantly stopping for the referee to break up scuffles.

A battle of skills

It is something I really enjoy when two teams battle it out fairly – and there was a lot of skill to see. However I can look back at the beginning of the match and the talk from the Under 17s manager and the encouragement of the coaches that made a difference to the start and ultimately to the result of the game.

When players start with 100 per cent determination they are more likely to have success than when they start dreading having to play a bigger, older team. I bet all the players were secretly thrilled they had won the game and made their weekend all the more enjoyable having done so.

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