This session is designed to allow attacking players opportunities to combine and exploit space in behind to score. Players are tasked with timing runs into space in behind the defenders. Attackers focus on combinations, timing of movement and finishing. Defenders are challenged with defending high in pairs and working hard to recover and stop the attack. This practice is valuable for position specific work with central midfielders, strikers and defenders.

About the Video

In the video below, Dave will talk you through the structure of the practice, various outcomes and how you can adapt it for your players.

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Practice Overview

Topic: Combination Play

No. of Players: 6 – 18

Goalkeepers: Optional

Practice Type: Skill Practice

Offsides: Yes

Pitch Size: 40 x 15

Timing: 20 mins

Age Group: U10+

Interpreting the Diagrams

The key below outlines what the images mean on the diagrams.

If you have questions about the practices, contact the PDP Team or share your views on the Player Development Project Coaching Community.

Key For Diagrams
soccer training diagram


Set up a long narrow pitch appropriate for the age and ability of players. Servers must stay behind the line are limited to 2-3 touch. Attackers can only enter the space with a ball over the top (or through). Defenders must recover and try to win the ball, and find one of the servers. Rotate players through roles in the practice every few sets.
An example of a striker receiving the ball, setting it back and making an angled and well-timed run into space. This may trigger the second attacking player to make a forward supporting run. Defenders now need to solve the problem of which of them tracks which attacker.
An example of the attackers getting success by breaking in behind and scoring from a one touch finish. It’s important to encourage the players that the game doesn’t stop until a goal is scored, the ball goes out or the defenders win the ball and secure it with a forward pass.
An example of the practice set up with two pitches side by side so the coach can stay connected to both games. If you have extra players, you can add an extra defender, attacker or server, or adapt to a 3v3+3.
An example of the defenders successfully recovering, winning the ball from blue, securing it and finding a forward pass into the servers. The next defenders could rotate in and blue players could swap roles from here. Alternatively, you can work in sets of 3-4 turns before swapping.


To allow attacking players opportunities to combine and exploit space in behind to score. Attackers focus on weight and shape of pass, timing of run, clinical finish. Defenders focus on tracking runners and dealing with ball over the top.


Set a pitches with 6-8 players per pitch. If you have large groups, set up two pitches to increase repetition. 2 servers start with the ball. Servers must stay behind the line. They can pass between themselves or bounce with attacking players. Attackers can only enter the scoring zone with a pass over the top into space. Limit servers to 2-3 touch.  If you have odd numbers, go with one server. If you have low numbers (E.g. 9 players) adapt to a 3v3+3. Ball must be played over the top (initially) by the servers. If defenders win the ball, they play on until they can find a pass into the servers and attackers can counter-press. Goalkeepers can be added. Ensure at least 20+ yards of space for players to run in to. A long narrow pitch is ideal.

Observations & Interventions

What you might see

  • Players not recovering to defend or making forward supporting runs
  • Players making straight runs on a straight pass
  • Slow play

Actions you might take

  • Restrict to a one touch finish for attackers (to encourage forward runs).
  • Reward defenders with a point every time they successfully win the ball and pass to a server.
  • Add a time limit for attackers or defenders when in possession


Is the session too easy?

  • Make the space smaller
  • Add an extra defender

Is the session too hard?

  • Make the space bigger
  • Restrict to only one defender can recover

Would you like to learn how to deliver great sessions?

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