Link-up combination play

Movement, support and running off the ball is essential in the modern game, and fine-tuning these abilities in players can really enhance attacking options throughout the team. Therefore, this unopposed drill is designed to examine receiving, touch, lay-off, link-up play and third-man running, so that players can work together in tight areas to maximum effect.

For simplicity, we have depicted this drill using one ball in one direction. As players progress, both directions can be played as one revolving move. And progressing further, we would use a ball in each channel at the same time.



25×10 yards


Balls, cones

Number of Players

Full squad

Session time

Session 10mins, development 30mins

What do I get the players to do?

We set up a 25×10-yard practice area. Play is contained in the right side of the area, with two central players working off each other. Waiting players stand in lines at both ends of the area, as indicated.

The basics are:

• Server makes a long pass to the right-side player who makes a forward run and spins to receive

• Server makes left-side run

• Short pass is played by right-side player to team mate who arcs his run then feeds server

• Server dribbles forward and passes to the receiver at the front of the top line (1).


• The server passes long to the first receiver, who links with his partner. A pass is made to the server who is making a ‘third-man run’

The player joins the back of the line ahead while central players return to their positions.

How do I progress the session?

For the first progression, the server can now pass short. If he chooses to, the left-side player on the halfway line comes towards him, spins ‘around the corner’, then feeds the right-side man, with the move then continuing as before (2a).


• The receiver drops off to take a short pass, combines in the middle then feeds the overlapping player

Progressing further, the variation now sees the central player drop short and play a ball into the path of his onrushing team mate. A short pass is then squared to the server who collects (2b).


• In this variation the receiver makes a forward run before linking play further up the area

The distance and angle of link-up play in the middle determines the receiver’s reaction time, and whether he chooses to start the return phase with a long or short pass.

In the next progression we introduce a stationary target on each top line. The server plays a one-two then feeds the target while the other working player links up to receive the lay-off, before passing to the receiver in the line (3a). The initial server becomes one of the middle players and the move continues in both directions, using short and long passes (3b).


• Now, with no ‘third-man run’, short passing moves to a long pass to the target player, who touches back to complete the move


• Here the server chooses to make a long pass and key passing and movement is concentrated in the middle part of the area

Finally, we progress this into a shooting session around the box, looking at the movement of the two front players and runs from midfield, with markers introduced to increase difficulty (4).


• In the shooting practice, midfielders and forwards link up to fashion goalscoring opportunities

What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?

We want good pass weight and accuracy, early movement and support. Runs have to be well timed and players can take  an extra touch to ensure the move continues.

Share this

Follow us