So Derby County are out of the Carling Cup after conceding goals late into full time and extra time. But why should a Premiership side be prone to the concession of last minute goals against Championship opposition?
When a side starts conceding last minute goals its a sure sign of over-anxiety. A team that has forgotten how to win. Which Derby have. Last years Championship play-off final probably seems a lifetime ago now. The intensity of the Premiership quickly establishes new habits and patterns. Including losing. With defeat comes lack of confidence. With the lack of confidence grows doubt. Doubt of course, leads to anxiety.
When your hanging on, a goal up into added-time, you don’t want to be the guilty player that makes a mistake that leads to an equaliser. Fear of mistakes leads to more anxiety and thus, more mistakes. So no one wants to take responsibility.
Anxious sides need to be coached through the closing moments of games. The natural inclination for a side desperate for a victory, is to try to hold on the lead. Pack the defence. Absorb the pressure and hope for a counter attack. They think its the best way to channel the nervous energy.
A better strategy is to instruct the players in an added-time attacking policy. Instead of hanging on to a slender lead or draw, seek to put the game to bed. This is the time for the creative players to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Direct the nervous energy into putting the opposition under pressure.
Set a team goal of scoring x number of last minute goals throughout the season. Offer a bonus for goals scored between the 89th and 94th minutes. Build it into the strategy meetings again and again. Create a code word between the team, that gets triggered in the 89th minute. Encourage daring. Have no fear of failure. Be bold and reap the rewards.