Keeper reactions and decisions

This session involves decision-making, angle work and reactions in a restricted space.
The tight playing area, combined with the challenge of shots being fired in at varying height and speed is designed to replicate instances of loose balls in the penalty area (for example, from corners and free-kicks).

It is important to practise this session because it tests brilliantly goalkeepers’ reactions, decision-making and awareness of angles, as well as the ability to pick up on loose balls.

Centre circle
3 goals, balls
Number of Players
5 (3 keepers, 2 or more set-up players)

What do I get the players to do?

Each keeper takes his place in one of the three goals positioned around the centre circle. From the open side, the server fires the ball towards a player positioned in the centre of the playing area. This target man’s job is to either leave the ball or deflect it into one of the three goals. All three keepers remain on their goal lines, and must be reactive any time the ball changes direction (1a). Before moving on to the next stage, rotate keepers.


• The target man deflects the server’s ball to his left

We now progress to varying the serve angle – each keeper must remain on his line so as to create situations where he needs to react quickly to a deflection (1b). Rebounds, however, are ‘live’, and the ball in the area must be smothered or dealt with.


• This time he flicks a header towards a different goal

Next, we bring the goals in to within 8 yards from the centre spot (1c). This tightened space serves to increase the need for good reactions from the goalkeepers. The central player has three big targets to aim at, while the server can also fire directly at goal if a keeper appears out of position.


• Bringing the goals in makes saving shots increasingly difficult for keepers

In the fourth stage, the servers move to the opposite side of the centre circle meaning that two of the keepers are unsighted with the ball being played in from over their shoulders (1d).


• The serve position has changed leaving the keeper unsighted until the last second

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

Keepers need to be on their toes and alive to all situations. Quick foot movements, good hand positions and speedy reactions to second balls are essential. Each keeper must ensure he is covering his goal at all times, even when the ball is past it.

How do I progress the session?

We progress the session by taking the keepers into a 9v9 game situation, using full-size goals on a half pitch that is the width of the penalty area. A tram line runs down each flank where a neutral winger is positioned.

The keeper distributes to a wide man who can use two touches to send a variety of different crosses into the box. All other players are one-touch, and are encouraged to rotate positions and make breaks into the box in order to divert crosses towards goal (2a).


• In a game situation, keepers must deal with a variety of balls from the flanks

 Progress this to developing play that builds from the back into midfield, and then wide to the flanks (2b).


• Play is this time built through midfield before being sent wide where the end result is a cut-back

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