Pressing in middle third – Practice


This practice works on the midfield three’s pressing form and introduces the techniques used in the previous exercise into a more game-realistic setting.

It also aims to break down the four Ds – delay, deny, direct, defend – and teaches players when, why and how they are used.


Mark out an area 30m wide x 25m long, with one full-sized goal at one end and three mini goals at the opposite end. Split the players into three groups of four. The teams on the field are set up as defenders and attackers.


The attacking team looks to combine to score into the main goal, while the defending team tries to win the ball back as a unit and score into the mini goals, which are set up to emulate the positions of their wingers and centre forward.

Play for two-minute rounds and rotate the groups so everyone has a chance to be the defenders or attackers.

The ball always starts from the defending team’s goal, triggering the transition when the ball is lost. Defenders must look to compact the space, with the closest person to the ball pressing, the second person covering and the third and fourth players supporting and balancing the play.


The defending team must works as a unit to press and win the ball back, showing the techniques of the previous exercise and use of the four Ds, as follows:


Delay: having the nearest player close down the space

Deny: don’t give the attackers space

Direct: force the attacker in the direction you want them to go

Defend: make the tackle at the right moment to gain possession back

The player second-closest to the ball should be covering by blocking passing lanes, with the third and fourth players looking to support and balance the play for when the ball is won back.

1. Split players into groups of four. One team (Blues) start as defenders, protecting the big goal and one team (Reds) start as attackers.

2. The defending team aims to score in the three mini goals.

3. Play always restarts with the defending team, to enable the transition of them losing possession.




Depending on numbers, you could have the resting team as target players for the defenders to play to instead of the mini goals.

If a team scores within five seconds of winning the ball back they get three points.

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