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Scoring Before Half-Time

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For every young boy or girl interested in the beautiful game, their family is key to their footballing education. Your team, your favourite players, and plethora of other footballing opinions, all are influenced by the viewpoints of you respected elders.

This influence does not just refer your opions on a team, but also your opinions on the mechanics of the game itself. The cries from father to son of 'if in doubt, kick it out' can frequently be heard in the local sunday leagues. Certainly that was true for me, but that was more due to a dodgy first touch which inevitably put me 'in doubt'.

When I was privy to my family conversations on football, one phrase shone out more then most. The 'best time to score wasn't just before half-time'. When Celtic scored before the half against Dundee, and I heard the commentator on the radio proclaim 'the Hoops have scored just before half-time, always the best time to score'.

To begin, what are the merits of scoring just before the end of the half? It demoralises the opponents, who thought they were going to go into the tunnel with a different score, and is evidence of the attacking team utilising every minute of the half. In writing this, these points seem so intuitive that debating them represents an exercise in futility

Yet this cherished commentators cliche is flawed. Firstly, goals before half-time kill the momentum of the scoring team. Crowd enthusiasm or anxiety are reset when fans return from their customary pie and coke. Moreover, players from the scoring team lose the adrenalin boost that comes from scoring or players from the team conceeding have a chance to recover from their nerves, when going in for the break. In short, there is no possibility for further momentum when a goal scored in the 45th minute.

Tactically, if you were going to concede, a goal just before half-time is ideal. Straight after half-time, the manager of his team is then given an opportunity to inform his team of their own failings and potential weaknesses to expose in the opposition. A goal straight after half, in contrast, leaves the manager's words to be largely irrelevant.

Scoring just before half-time may not be the worst time to score, but it certainly is not the best. It is an outdated cliche. Whilst every goal is a goal, a general rule of 'the latter the better' should be accepted.

Ultimately though, why do we care? That's a serious and worthwhile question. This is about more than picking on an individual commentator. A goal before the half isn't the 'worst' time to concede. Teams can and should be able to pick themselves up from this setback, and get themselves back in the game. Whilst no one should expect a team to rejoice at conceding, this type of analysis provides some perspective on unneeded dejection.