Playing against a low block

This session is designed to help an attacking team beat opponents who have parked the bus – in other words, to score against a team using a defensive low block. It’s one of the hardest practices we run because it builds to a game where the players are trying to find a way to score in a very congested area.



Up to three quarters of pitch


Balls, bibs, cones, 2 mannequins,
2 target goals, 1 full size goal

Number of Players

Up to 21 players + 1 goalkeeper

Session time

Practice 1: 30mins

Practice 2: 30mins

Practice 3: 25mins

What do I get the players to do?

Practice 1

This first practice is aimed at getting players to implement the principles of taking shots where the space inside the penalty area is limited and where the defence aims to funnel the attackers centrally so the goalkeeper can see any shots coming if the defence is breached.

We set up in the final third, with a goal in its normal position. Two mannequins, representing opposition defenders, are positioned as shown [1]. We’re using two strikers, a midfielder and an opposition goalkeeper.


1. Play starts with a pass into one of the strikers by the midfielder, who then makes a forward run
2. The striker plays a return ball to the midfielder, who takes a first-time shot at goal in his stride
3. The other striker makes a run to anticipate any rebounds from the keeper

Play starts with a ball from the midfielder, who passes in to one of the strikers and makes a forward run, receiving a return pass in his stride to take a first-time shot at goal. The second striker also makes a forward run to anticipate any rebounds from the keeper.

What are the key things to look out for?

It’s important that the midfielder takes his shots first time and that he hits the ball low, to make it harder for the goalkeeper to save. Low shots mean that, in many instances, goalkeepers will have to save the ball with their feet. This raises the chance of rebounds in the danger area.

What do I get the players to do next?

Practice 2

The second practice is designed to work on the crossing decisions that the wide players will have to take.

We set up in the final third of the pitch, with a goal in its usual position and two target goals outside the penalty area, as shown [2]. We’re using a goalkeeper and 10 outfield players, split into a blue defending team of four and a keeper, and a red attacking team of six.


1. The red midfielder starts play with a pass to one of the wide players
2. The wide player takes a touch and crosses low into the six-yard box. Or he could vary things by cutting the ball back to the edge of the penalty area
3. One striker tries to get across the first defender and makes a near-post run
4. The other striker attacks the back post and must be alert to any defensive mistakes in the goalmouth
5. If the blue defenders win the ball, they can try to score in the target goals

Play begins with a pass from a red central midfield player who alternates starting passes between the left and right wing. The receiving winger takes a touch and delivers a low cross into the six-yard box, where the onrushing strikers are attacking the near post and the back post. They should try to score under pressure from the defenders but they must also be alert to any defensive mistakes that result in loose balls in the goalmouth.

To keep the defenders on their toes, the winger could choose to cut the ball back to team mates on the edge of the box instead of crossing. But attackers must be careful not to lose possession, or the defenders could break out and score in either of the target goals.

What are the key things to look out for?

In a low block, the defending team will utilise its tallest players in order to repel high crosses, so we want to see the wide attackers delivering their crosses low and hard.

What do I get the players to do next?

Practice 3

For this practice we usually set our players the scenario that we’re entering the final 20 minutes of a match and our opponents are either holding onto a lead or trying to grind out a point. Due to the lack of time on the clock, the attacking team would usually rush the play, passing and crossing into areas that are easy to defend against.

This activity is aimed at teaching players how to beat the block, combining what they have learnt in the first and second practices.

We set up on three-quarters of a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end and two target goals at the other. We’re using 21 outfield players, split into a blue defending team of 10, a red attacking team of 10, and a neutral server, who starts play from a 10×10-yard box positioned between the target goals, as shown [3].


1. Play starts with a server playing to the red attacking team, who are limited to three touches so the ball is moved quickly
2. The attacking full backs and wingers should link up on each side of the pitch
3. The blue defending team should stay compact, using the width of the penalty area as a guide to defend zonally
4. The aim for the reds is to score in the main goal
5. If the blue defending team wins possession, they should counter-attack one of the two target goals

The aim for the defending team is to stay compact at the back, using the width of the 18-yard box as a guide to defending zonally. If they gain possession, they should counter-attack either of the two target goals.

The aim for the attacking team is to score in the main goal. The full backs and the wingers should link up on each flank and the wingers should stay wide to open up the pitch. The strikers and midfielders should rotate centrally to try to pull the defenders out of their zonal positions and they should aim to play no more than three-touch in the final third.

What are the key things to look out for?

It’s important to see the attackers rotating – if there is little movement and the players remain static, the defending team will find it easier to mark their opponents.

The attackers should play quickly but must be patient because there is a high likelihood of misplacing passes if they are rushed.

What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?

Many times, we see attacking teams cross high into an area where the defence has put the tallest players to combat high crosses. It’s important for players to look at playing low driven crosses, and also look for cut backs to the edge of the box. Strikers should aim to get in front of defenders, and every shot on goal needs to be followed up to anticipate rebounds.

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