Forward runs

The session focuses on forward runs and encourages positive forward movement linked to patient buildup play and good pitch geography. The session can be adapted depending on squad size, and the focus is on the timing of movement and an end product being achieved either by passing or running with the ball.

We will always highlight the need for good lines of passes and team shape. Irrespective of what drill we run, we like to emphasise good pitch geography with key areas of the area always being occupied.

We run this session at least twice each week as it’s seen as a vital part of our overall match strategy, with the key attacking principle being to create space and receive. This demands regular practice time and the key factors should be constantly reiterated and highlighted.


Up to 60×32 yards
Balls, cones, flat cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 9v9
Session time
Passing drill 15mins plus 3mins per progression,  Small-sided game 4v4mins with 90secs recovery

What do I get the players to do?

Passing drill

This drill prepares players for playing forward, with an offside line showing the need for good timing of movement (1).
Players move the ball around the area, following their passes, with receivers coming off their poles to create space to control the ball and send it on.


• In the Passing Drill, the ball is worked around the area for the last man to run onto, ensuring he times his run so as to stay onside as the pass is played

What are the key things to look out for?

Players must show a good weight and accuracy of pass and excellent communication – verbally and through eye contact. A positive first touch by the receiving player is crucial, as is the timing of the final player in not breaking the offside line before the pass is played. The last man runs with the ball to the back of line as the move restarts.

How do I progress the practice?

To progress, we ask for players to make a quick one-two at the top end of the grid, as shown (2a).
Next, another one-two can be added at the start of the practice (2b). Then, as a final progression, the last man can move in to play an early touch before the ball is moved up the wing. He then needs to reset quickly, making a blind side run around the pole to collect the ball and finish (2c).


• In the progression, players make a one-two before the final pass goes forward


• Now, a second one-two is made at the start of the passing move


• And in the final progression, the ‘last man’ joins the move early to offer an extra passing outlet, before returning to his starting position and completing the move

Small-sided game

We use 18 players on a 60×32-yard area, as shown (3). Being long and narrow, it focuses players on the need for good forward passing and movement.


• In the Small-sided game, the principles are played out in a 9v9 set-up, with the blue striker evading the attention of his red defender and scoring a point by collecting a pass made into the end zone

Each team allocates two attackers and three defenders. A point is scored by one of the attackers receiving the ball under control, or running with the ball, into the relevant end zone. They are the only players who can go into that end zone. Likewise, for the opposing end zone, only the allocated defenders and attackers can enter the ‘scoring area’.

A further point can be scored by the team in possession completing eight consecutive passes. This prevents the defending team simply sitting back and protecting their respective end zone.

A progression of the game can see an additional point scored if a forward closes down a defender and steals possession in the end zone. This encourages the strikers to maintain focus and concentration .

What are the key things to look out for?

Forwards should never be level or ‘flat’. Instead we want to see ‘opposite’ movement, so one forward going short and the other long. And the team in possession must not ‘force the pass’, instead carefully securing a point through eight successful passes.

How do I progress the game?

To progress, we can restrict touches, play one forward against two defenders, or allow any team in[diag
Before the practice commences, we will remind players how a striker can construct a scoring situation. This may be from running in behind, from ‘pinning’ his defender in the end zone, or perhaps receiving on the half-turn and dribbling into the end zone. The key aspect though is the creation of space to allow such opportunities.

A player in possession needs to ask himself ‘can I play forward?’, ‘can I play square?, ‘can I pass back?’, all the time looking to ‘tempt’ defenders away from their own end zone, thus creating space for the forward movement.

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