Think hard lines in attack to create gaps in defence

Against a defensive line, a change of angle by an attacker can create space. Help your players understand how and when to run these angles.

“Hard lines” is a term used to describe the running line of an attacker, generally straight or back towards the ball.

Accurate running lines are a vital tool when looking to break down a strong defence by attacking weak shoulders and spaces around defenders.

A hard line can also be a contrasting running line to the ball carrier. If a ball carrier is running across the field trying to drag defenders out of position, a “hard” contrasting running line by a support player is needed to straighten the attack, targeting defenders over-chasing and with turned out body shapes to punch through the defence.

Over-chasing means try to cover across the pitch quicker than needed, making it easy to step inside that player.


Defences are generally looking to keep as many defenders on their feet as possible, which can mean there’s a line of defenders covering across the field. At times like these attacking teams need to try to punch through the defence and breach or break the gain line.

By moving the gain line back towards the opposition’s goal line, it will force the defence to congest around the breakdown, creating space elsewhere on the pitch.


With a hard line, players will need to lower their body height and duck and tuck through the contact, maintaining a strong body position and having two hands firmly on the ball.

To create more space and therefore a greater chance of breaking or denting the defensive line, it is vital that the attackers manipulate the defence with their running line and body language. A running line that angles straight back into a hole will give the defence an easy cue allowing them to adjust and hit the carrier with two tacklers and dominate the collision.

In order to isolate defenders it is important that the attacker always moves forward first to engage his opposite defender before moving off his line and attacking back towards the ball and at space.

Fixing a defender with early straight running will generally slow, or plant a defender’s feet, allowing the attacker time to accelerate and win the race to the space inside.


Above is an example of a good drill to start learning accurate running lines and winning the race to space in attack. Attackers line up opposite the goal posts, which is generally good defensive spacing.

Work on A1 catching and running square towards the first post, making sure they don’t fall off their pass to the inside. A2 runs straight then adjusts in towards the ball on the timing of the pass.

The second example shows the first receiver, A1, squaring up the 1st defender then bouncing into the space between the two defenders to attract them in. A2 can pick a straight line outside the second defender, which is the post.

It can be progressed into game-like scenarios to represent ways to use running lines against a congested defence.

Use edge scenarios where the defence has equal or more numbers than the attack, forcing the attack to use hard lines to punch and penetrate through the defence. It is important for all attackers to react to a change in running line and follow the ball carrier through and look for support.


  • Engage the defender first by forcing them to move into position to tackle.
  • Attack the edge of the defender not the space between two defenders.
  • The passer needs to adjust the pass to suit the angle of the hard line.
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