Finishing with transition

This is a high intensity session that works on improving player sharpness in and around the penalty box, arguably the most important area of the pitch and one where games are won or lost. It’s a finishing session but it is as much of a defending practice for the team out of possession.

For the team attacking the large goal, the session is all about creating scoring opportunities, both as an individual and by combining with team mates. When the attackers lose the ball it is important they react positively in transition by pressing the ball quickly or defending the mini goals.

For the team defending the large goal, they must get tight to the ball carrier, stop shots and defend as a unit. If they win the ball back they should look to hit the two target goals.

Players love this practice because it is intense. There are also plenty of opportunities to be a hero, both by scoring or making crucial blocks. It challenges all aspects of the game and it has something for everyone: attackers, defenders and keepers.

The great thing about this session is that a coach can use it to work on specific outcomes, which can change each time it is used. For example, it could be used one week to work on finishing with back to goal and then the next week the coach could condition the practice so that the servers cross and then it becomes a finishing from crosses practice.



Final third of pitch


Balls, bibs, cones, 1 full size goal,
2 mini goals

Number of Players

12 players + 1 goalkeeper

Session time

Total: 30mins

What do I get the players to do?

We set up in the final third of the pitch, with a full size goal in its normal position and two mini target goals positioned outside the penalty area. We are using 12 outfield players and a goalkeeper, who guards the main goal.

The outfield players are divided into three teams of four: one team attacks the main goal, one team defends the main goal, and the third team is positioned around the outside of the area as servers. If the coach chooses, the servers can also act as bounce players for the attacking team, passing back (on one or two touch) to help create scoring chances.

Play starts with a server passing a ball into the attacking team, as shown [1a]. The servers can take it in turns to play the ball in, or the coach (or a player) can call out the name of the server to play the ball. The attacking team attempts to create goal-scoring opportunities by making the space to shoot as an individual, or by using team play to create an opening.


1. Servers start play by passing the ball into the team attacking the large goal. The servers can take turns or respond to a call from the coach
2. The attacking team attempts to create a scoring opportunity by making the space to shoot, either through individual skill or through team play
3. The defending team and the keeper try to stop the attackers from scoring

Once the first attack has ended, the next ball is played in immediately by one of the servers. If the defenders win the ball, or if the keeper saves and keeps hold of the ball, they must now try to score in the mini goals, as shown [1b]. The keeper can distribute to a team mate, or he can score directly in the mini goal himself with either a pass or a throw. This forces the attackers to react quickly in transition, as they need to decide whether to press the counter-attacking defenders or drop deep to defend the mini goals.


1. Once the first attack has ended with a shot, the next ball should be quickly played in by the servers
2. If the defenders win the ball they must now try to score in the mini goals. Both sets of players must react quickly to a change in possession
3. If the keeper gathers the ball, he can start a counter-attack with either a throw or a pass – directly to the mini goal or to a team mate

It helps to explain to the players that, in relation to the 11-a-side game, the mini goals represent the midfield unit for the defending team. This shows the importance for the attacking team to respond quickly and appropriately on transition.

We rotate the players every three minutes: the servers become attackers, the attackers become defenders, and the defenders become servers, as shown [1c]. Play until all players have been attackers, defenders and servers at least three times each.


1. Play for three minutes before rotating teams: now the servers become attackers, the attackers become defenders, and the defenders become servers
2. If the coach chooses, the servers can also be used as bounce players to return the ball to the attacking team. Limit them to one or two touch
3. Here an attacker has made a well-timed run to receive the ball from the server and scores

To ensure realism, use a linesman to call offsides. Keep score and give the players some reflection time in between sets to discuss what they need to improve and any changes in strategy they might want to make.

How do I progress the session?

The session can be adapted or progressed in a number of ways. We can increase the challenge for the attackers or the defenders by reducing the numbers in order to create an overload for one team.

We could challenge or condition the players attacking the large goal to “go it alone” and find a way to finish on their own. We could also vary the role of the servers, to make them involved in the game – they can be conditioned to pass, to deliver a certain type of a cross, or a cross of their choice.

What are the key things to look out for?

When in possession, we look for player movement to create space for a first-time finish. We also want to see skilful ball manipulation and a good first touch to create the opportunity to finish under pressure. Players should show us they are alert and can follow up on any rebounds.

When out of possession, players need to maintain the correct distance from the ball carrier to stop shots. Their body shape when defending is also important, as is the angle of the press.

In transition, whether attacking or defending, players should react fast. If they have lost possession, players should recognise when to press or drop. If they have gained possession, we want to see the transition to a quick counter-attack.

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

The team attacking the large goal is typically slow in transition. This is because when they are trying to score, they think they are just an attacking team, but players need to be reminded that when their team loses possession of the ball, they immediately become defenders.

If the coach has decided that the servers are involved as bounce players or crossers, ensure they play an active part in the game and don’t just pass or cross from the same place each time. They should be fluid when the ball is live. Even when serving the ball in, they should be on the move – shifting the ball with their first touch before passing or dribbling to the byline to give the offensive team the time make the movement needed to attack the ball.

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