Beating the block with creative play

I have used this session in the past when coaching teams that are struggling to score goals or create chances in matches – particularly when finding it difficult to break down a well-organised defence.

Quite often it has been used prior to a home match when we are expected to have a lot of possession against a team who may set up quite defensively.

The initial idea is to create chances for forward runners to take through on goal in 1v1 situations, but the session then builds into a practice that examines alertness, timing and the art of getting team mates working on the same wavelength.


25×45 yards
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
8v8 plus keepers
Session time
Main practice 25mins
Progressions 10mins each

What do I get the players to do?

Setting up as shown (1), both teams have to score from a through-pass played into the end zone in front of a striker for him to run onto. Each team designates one or two strikers (formation dependent) who cannot break the offside line until the ball has been played.


• The striker times his run perfectly to go through 1v1 with the keeper to score, with defenders unable to track back past the offside line

Defenders can intercept passes but can track runners only as far as the end zone leaving the striker to go through 1v1. If a goal is scored, or a shot saved or missed the defending keeper restarts and plays out to a defender.

What are the key things to look out for?

Early on you may see strikers making runs needlessly or midfielders missing the opportunity to pass, but this simply represents the learning aspect of the session, and of most importance is a positive mindset to achieve.

What will develop is players getting on the same wavelength and learning each others’ games. A big part of this is the striker being careful not to waste time and energy in making runs when the pass isn’t on. He’ll become aware of where and when the opportunity is going to arise, recognising the triggers (perhaps a midfielder’s body shape, a signal to break, or the bad positioning of a defender that a team mate will spot (2)), and getting ready to change pace quickly to get onto the end of the through-ball.


• Strikers and midfielders are looking for triggers that allow a pass – here, it’s because the defender has been caught flat-footed, offering space into which a through-pass can be made

How do I progress the session?

Initially, if players are finding success, allow one defender to follow the striker into the end zone. Alternatively, insist on a set number of passes before the ball is released in order to encourage patience. If progress is slower, let an extra striker go into the end zone to make a 2v1 (3).


• In the progression, a move to enhance forward opportunities means a 2v1 break is allowed

The real beauty of this session though is that you’re able to progress it depending on whatever formation your team favours. So, for instance, if playing with only one striker as a target man, perhaps nominate two wide midfielders or two attacking midfielders to be allowed into the end zone. The way to utilise these players beyond the back line would be different compared to a traditional striker. A target man would need to lay the ball off into a supporting player who would then be looking to play the through pass for either a wide man coming in off the flank or a midfielder making a run from deep (4).


• Progressions should also account for team formations – here, the set-up uses the fact the team plays with a lone striker to practise hold-up and positional play for the target man and his onrushing wide men

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