A couple of seasons ago I was asked to take over an Under 16s team that the club said were underachieving – they wanted the team to get more success than they were having. So I went along to watch them.... MORE
How Half-Time Tactics Can Make All The Difference
It’s a tough call. The half-time whistle sounds and you’re leading 1-0. You need those three points. The dilemma confronting you is do you try to keep things tight and hold onto your lead, or do you press on for more goals and a convincing win? On the flipside of the coin, if you reach the interval a goal down, you urgently need to get back into the game somehow. Do you take a risk and go all out for an equaliser, or do you keep faith in your current system and hope you can get back on terms?
In both instances, before you make a decision you have to ask yourself a few simple questions. Ask yourself as a neutral observer, not as a coach embroiled in the excitement and emotion of the action: “Do we deserve to be in the position we currently find ourselves?” It could be that you honestly think you have dominated and your one-goal lead could have been much bigger, or you have dominated the trail to a breakaway goal, having had a string of chances. If either of these are true, why change it?
However, if you feel you are hanging on to a 1-0 lead against a team that has been well on top, you will obviously need to do something to try to keep hold of the lead. Parking the proverbial bus is not the answer though, especially in youth football.
The chances of your youngsters hanging on to such a slender advantage for such a long period are slim if you pack the defence. One lapse of concentration and you’ve conceded the lead, and getting back in the game from there is nigh on impossible with the set up you’ve adopted.
The answer can be a simple case of bolstering the midfield. If you’re playing two up front, put one of them in midfield. This strengthens your defence higher up the pitch, gives you a better chance of obtaining and retaining possession but still gives you attacking options. Similarly, if you are a goal down at half-time and struggling, you may indeed have to do something to get you back into the match, but resist the temptation to be too gung ho.
You could make a double substitution in the attacking part of the pitch – add a forward or two, taking off more defensive players. It might work but chances are you’ll get caught out by a counterattack and end up on the wrong end of a hiding. Again, the solution can be as simple as moving a midfielder further forward to play in “the hole” behind the main striker or strikers; or you could make a difference by pushing a defender into midfield to boost numbers there and add your creative options without significantly weakening the back line.
Remember, although the opening minutes after half-time are vital to shaping the second half, there is still plenty of football to be played. So beware of temptation to make wholesale changes too early on.
Try the session 1-0 Down Tactics to help build your teams’ attacking mentality, giving them a fighting chance in the second half.