Beginners Guide – Defending

There are three fundamental approaches to defence: reaction, anticipation and obfuscation. The best defenders know how to do all three effectively.

Reaction – Responding to your opponent’s movements as quickly as you can. Here is a basic race defence against a pull shot.

This defence could quite easily be improved by ‘staggering’ the men, covering more of the goal whilst not leaving enough space to let the ball through. The attacker doesn’t even have to ‘square off’ the shot to get it round the men.

Here the men are staggered and shuffled, leaving fewer obvious ‘holes’ in which to shoot. The defender’s play is showing signs of anticipation, as he is now aware that his opponent’s pull shot is reasonably quick and long.

Having seen two long, fast shots go past him, the defender has adapted his approach again. One of his men is placed quite near to the far post, angled forward so as to make it more difficult to get the ball round into the corner of the goal. The defence is successful and it is now the turn of the attacker to adjust.

The defender, pleased with his recent success, is now focusing too greatly on the far post, leaving an easy straight shot:

If you find that an attacker is shooting very quickly and does not appear to have a particular preference for any part of the goal, then it is wise to try some obfuscation. Using random or apparently-random movements can help put your opponent off and disguise where you plan to place your men at the time of the shot.

Here is some footage of a shuffling snake defence. One of the reasons for the snake’s popularity is its flexibility – it can be equally easy to hit each of the holes in the goal. By presenting a seemingly random pattern to the attacker, while ensuring that no one hole is left clear for long enough to attract attention, the striker’s job is made harder than it may otherwise be.