By pitting individual defenders against two attackers, this session teaches a lone defender to be patient and delay play until he either wins the ball or his team-mate recovers to assist. The speed of the activity means players have to react very quickly during moments of transition, which in turn improves their reaction times.

Set up

Set up an area 20×10-yards. We’ve used eight players. You need balls, bibs, cones and target goals.

How to play it

Teams take it in turn to attack in a 2v2. After each attack, the pair of attackers become defenders and the player who last touched the ball must run to the opposition goal and touch it before he can recover to defend; the other player immediately defends. If the ball leaves the field or if a goal is scored then two new players come on as the new attackers; if the ball is turned over, then the two defenders stay on the pitch and attack.


Make sure players know not to overcommit but to delay the play and wait for the recovering player to even the numbers. Timing and judgements is vital – if the delaying defender overcommits, he will get easily beaten, or if he overly conservative he will miss the opportunity to win the ball.

defending delaying

1. All starts and restarts are with the coach, who varies where he plays the ball
2. When a team defends, one defender must run to the opposition goal and touch it before recovering, leaving a 2v1 in the attackers favour
3. Here the lone defender tries to win the ball immediately but a quick pass takes him out of the game and the attacker scores.

4. The attackers from the previous play now become defenders. The last attacker to touch the ball in the previous play now becomes the recovering defender
5. Here the position of the lone defender is much better, holding up play to give his team-mate time to get back to prevent the new pair of strikers from scoring

6. Players are looking for that moment to try to win the ball. If the attacker takes a slightly bigger touch, then an opportunity to win it might become available for the defenders

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