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How to nullify pace

“The key thing when you’re faced with a team blessed with a lot of pace is not to drop off. For some teams, that’s the first thing they do, but in my eyes the most important thing to do is to put pressure on the ball (1) – if you can stop the players providing the ammunition then it puts you in a far better position. You need to cut off at the source the players providing the service.

You need to push up and play a high line and pressurise the ball. That takes a bit of bravery but if you can do it successfully then you’re taking the impetus away from the opposition and giving yourselves far more control.

You’re always on the front foot if you can impose the way you play on the opposition rather, than the other way round.

You don’t necessarily need quick defenders in your side to counter pace, because if they are clever and know what they are doing, you can eliminate the threat.

If you’re up against wingers then the full-backs don’t want to give them the opportunity to have  a good run at them.

They need to get tight(2) to make sure that the threat is nullified. Again it’s all about being brave, and if you drop off, particularly early in the game when a winger might be looking to impose himself on the opposition and on the game, then you’re in trouble.

If you have them in the squad,  call on pacy wingers yourself (3) – this can obviously help in terms of doubling up, although those wide players should always be aware of their defensive responsibilities too."

Keeping a lead

McDermott on taking advantage and making the most of an early goal: enjoy it, for a start...

1 Enjoy it

A lot of people will tell you that you can score too early – that’s rubbish. What better way to start the match than to get on the score sheet within a couple of minutes? Personally that’s the best scenario for a manager: 1-0 inside two minutes, lovely.

2 Capitalise on it

If you go 1-0 up early then you should go for the jugular. If you score again then you’re well and truly on your way and the opposition are suddenly looking at themselves, thinking, “What’s happened here?” 

3 Retain your shape

When attacking or defending, it’s important to stick to positions, so whether you score early or concede early, you need to maintain that solid shape – you need that base to attack from. Every player in the team should know their role in the side, and although some will have a bit of licence they all need to keep their head regardless of the match situation.

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