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Player in yellow bib makes a pass

Finishing session: overloads, underloads and matched-up numbers

The FA’s Matt Jones shares a session that helps players work on their finishing skills with various numbers of players on the pitch.

Want to try this with your team? Download the session plan to your device and give it a go.


Set up an area that is appropriate for your players’ age and developmental stage. For young players, a third of a normal pitch would work well for this practice. Create two areas so that two games can take place at the same time. Place a goal at one end of each area and a few balls on the halfway line. Setting the practice up like this will increase ball rolling time for the players and can help with their engagement.

For this practice, we used ten players split into two teams of five. We had a goalkeeper in each goal with two defenders at the goal end and three attackers starting from the other end – and the same on the other pitch. You can adjust these numbers to suit your team. With larger numbers, players can rotate each time a new ball goes into play. Those not in the game can learn by observing the others.

The aim is for attackers to score a goal. This practice involves three rounds of five games where the numbers of players vary.

The first round focuses on overloads. It includes two 2v1 games and two 3v2 games, and the players choose the number of players for the last game, but there must be more attackers than defenders.

The second round focuses on matched-up numbers. It includes two 2v2 games and two 1v1 games, and the players choose the number of players for the last game, but there must be the same number of players on each side.

The third and final round focuses on underloads. So, the first round includes two 1v2 games and two 2v3 games, and the players choose the number of players in the last game, but there must be more defenders than attackers.

Once a goal is scored or the goalkeeper saves, the next round starts. If the defenders intercept the ball, they should try to get it to the halfway line.

For the first two games of each round, it is important to be clear about who is playing and who is resting. And it is important to swap the players around during each round so that they get a chance to attack and defend.

You can include a bonus round too where you allow attackers to choose the make-up of all five rounds. They must communicate this with the defenders so they can get organised.



If your players master your activity – or find it too hard – try adding a progression.  

If this session is too easy, you could make the space smaller so there is less time for decisions to be made. If this is done, make sure the goal is still in the centre of the pitch.

You could also start the defenders behind the attackers or on the side of the pitch. This happens a lot in matches so could help it feel more realistic.

If the session is too hard, remove a defender from the first round of games or an attacker from the third round of games. This means there is less or no opposition in these two rounds.

If you have an uneven number of players or one goalkeeper, rotate the goalkeeper and ask someone to go more than once.  If you do not have a goalkeeper, you could use targets in each goal such as cones on the floor or by tying spare bibs to the crossbar for the attackers to hit.

Whatever you do, remember that learning takes time. So, do not alter your activity too quickly – or too much. Try using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002). This helps keep things fun, engaging, and appropriate.   

Extra resources

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Once you've put this session into practice, share your experience on the England Football Community.