All Whites striker Chris Wood over injury concerns, Tommy Smith touch and go, says coach Anthony Hudson

  • 15/11/2017

All Whites boss Anthony Hudson has backed star striker Chris Wood to start in Thursday's 2018 World Cup intercontinental playoff (NZT) against Peru, but is more circumspect on the chances of Tommy Smith.

The Burnley-based Wood came off the bench in Saturday's 0-0 first-leg draw in Wellington due to a hamstring issue, playing just 19 minutes.

Yet despite continuing to feel tightness in his hamstring, Wood is more than likely to start the second leg in Lima as the All Whites chase a spot in Russia.

Hudson admitted the 25-year-old poacher was among New Zealand's more important players, with his strength, link-up play and finishing considered crucial -

But he would nevertheless go into the second leg quietly confident.

The likes of Marco Rojas, Kosta Barbarouses and Clayton Lewis could also chip in with goals, while Shane Smeltz remained a bench option.

"We're not putting all of our faith in Chris as we have lots of other players who can score goals and have scored goals away from home against big teams, and caused problems against big teams," Hudson told reporters.

Wood, the side's vice-captain, would also add plenty of leadership and Premier League-level experience in a challenging environment.

The injury fortunes of Smith, however, seem more grim.

With his side more than likely to adopt a conservative approach in Lima, Hudson admitted his Ipswich-based defender remained touch-and-go for the game.

He was taken off in the second half in Wellington with a calf complaint.

Hudson said the 27-year-old Smith would be rested on Wednesday (NZT) before undergoing a final fitness test on Thursday morning.

He has already lost right back Storm Roux to a minor ankle problem.

Peru striker Jefferson Farfan touched upon the importance of Smith and the side's other rangy defenders in Los Incas' press conference.

The five Kiwi defenders who started Saturday's first-leg draw measured an average 184cm, while the four Peruvians who played up front averaged 174cm.

Smith stands at 188cm tall.

"The fact is that this game is going to be as hard and complicated as the game was in New Zealand, because it's not easy to play against the walls that make up their defence," the Lokomotiv Moscow-based Farfan said. 

NZN