Herbert 'proud' after draw with Solomons

New Caledonia players celebrate Bertrand Kai's goal in the 2-0 victory over Ben Sigmund and the All Whites.
New Caledonia players celebrate Bertrand Kai's goal in the 2-0 victory over Ben Sigmund and the All Whites.
All Whites veterans Ivan Vicelich and Chris Killen have no answers for New Caledonia.
All Whites veterans Ivan Vicelich and Chris Killen have no answers for New Caledonia.
A dejected Ivan Vicelich after the final whistle.
A dejected Ivan Vicelich after the final whistle.
The disappointment is evident on the face of striker Chris Wood.
The disappointment is evident on the face of striker Chris Wood.
Ivan Vicelich gets his head in to clear away a New Caledonia cross.
Ivan Vicelich gets his head in to clear away a New Caledonia cross.
All Whites forward Shane Smeltz goes up to head the ball in front of two New Caledonia players during the semifinal loss at the Oceania Nations Cup.
All Whites forward Shane Smeltz goes up to head the ball in front of two New Caledonia players during the semifinal loss at the Oceania Nations Cup.
All Whites striker Chris Wood heads the ball down during the semifinal.
All Whites striker Chris Wood heads the ball down during the semifinal.
Chris Wood's 14th minute goal from a volley put New Zealand up 1-0.
Chris Wood's 14th minute goal from a volley put New Zealand up 1-0.
Chris Wood (centre) is congratulated on his goal against the Solomon Islands. by Tim Payne (left) and Shane Smeltz.
Chris Wood (centre) is congratulated on his goal against the Solomon Islands. by Tim Payne (left) and Shane Smeltz.
All Whites captain Tommy Smith goes up for a header against Nelson Sale Kilifa of the Solomon Islands.
All Whites captain Tommy Smith goes up for a header against Nelson Sale Kilifa of the Solomon Islands.
Midfielder Tim Payne sliders in to make a tackle on Jeffery Bule of the Solomons.
Midfielder Tim Payne sliders in to make a tackle on Jeffery Bule of the Solomons.
Chris Wood (right) celebrates his goal against Papua New Guinea with Shane Smeltz.
Chris Wood (right) celebrates his goal against Papua New Guinea with Shane Smeltz.
All Whites central defender Ivan Vicelich heads the ball away from danger.
All Whites central defender Ivan Vicelich heads the ball away from danger.
Kosta Barbarouses chests down a ball against Papua New Guinea.
Kosta Barbarouses chests down a ball against Papua New Guinea.
New Zealand's Tim Payne challenges Papua New Guinea's David Muta.
New Zealand's Tim Payne challenges Papua New Guinea's David Muta.
The All Whites line up for the national anthems in Honiara.
The All Whites line up for the national anthems in Honiara.
All Whites goalkeeper Jake Gleeson chats with assistant coach Neil Emblen.
All Whites goalkeeper Jake Gleeson chats with assistant coach Neil Emblen.
Tommy Smith (centre) celebrates his first international goal with Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen and Kosta Barbarouses.
Tommy Smith (centre) celebrates his first international goal with Shane Smeltz, Chris Killen and Kosta Barbarouses.
All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston receives treatment after getting a knee to the head.
All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston receives treatment after getting a knee to the head.
All Whites striker Shane Smeltz takes an awkward shot at goal.
All Whites striker Shane Smeltz takes an awkward shot at goal.
All Whites defender Ben Sigmund heads the ball in front of Fiji's Roy Krishna.
All Whites defender Ben Sigmund heads the ball in front of Fiji's Roy Krishna.
The All Whites chug down the drinks during a scheduled drinks break.
The All Whites chug down the drinks during a scheduled drinks break.
Shane Smeltz attempts to dispossess Fiji's Samuela Vula.
Shane Smeltz attempts to dispossess Fiji's Samuela Vula.
The All Whites thank their Solomon Islands hosts ahead of their opening match.
The All Whites thank their Solomon Islands hosts ahead of their opening match.

The All Whites' unconvincing Oceania Nations Cup campaign will face another stern test tomorrow with a semifinal against in-form New Caledonia.

New Zealand topped group B on seven points after drawing 1-1 with tournament hosts Solomon Islands in the final pool match in Honiara yesterday.

The game followed a similar pattern to the previous 1-0 and 2-1 wins over Fiji and Papua New Guinea with the All Whites scoring early but failing to kill off their lowly opposition.

Benjamin Totori capped an outstanding match with a wonderful second-half equaliser yesterday, the former Manawatu and Waitakere United livewire cancelling out Chris Wood's early strike and sending the big home crowd at Lawson Tama Stadium into delirium.

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert made nine changes to his starting lineup and afterwards said he was "proud" of the way his young players "dug deep" in the heat.

"We exposed a whole new team to arguably the toughest team in the tournament."

But understrength or not, it is a concern that New Zealand have been unable to adapt to the hot and humid conditions or maintain possession for long periods.

Senior pros Ben Sigmund, Ivan Vicelich, Michael McGlinchey, Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz were all rested yesterday and will return fresh for tomorrow's semifinal as the All Whites aim to defend their title and qualify for next year's Confederations Cup in Brazil.

New Caledonia finished second in group A but were unlucky in their upset 4-3 loss to Tahiti.

Many observers in Honiara believed New Caledonia were hard done by having two players sent off in that match, and the Pacific Games champions won their other two games easily.

New Caledonia tuned up for the semifinals by thrashing Samoa 9-0 on Tuesday, with striker Jacques Haeko scoring five goals.

Before that was a 5-2 romp over Vanuatu where another dangerous striker, Pacific Games golden boot winner Bertrand Kai, scored a hat-trick.

Tahiti play the Solomons in tomorrow's other semifinal.

New Zealand's first-choice goalkeeper Mark Paston has been ruled out of the tournament after suffering concussion in the opening game, with Michael O'Keeffe called in as cover.

But Herbert will choose between incumbent Jake Gleeson – who has mixed good saves with some anxious moments – and Glen Moss (yet to play a game as he recovers from his torn adductor) for tomorrow.

Herbert is likely to pair Wood and Smeltz together up front with both strikers in good form.

Wood's goal yesterday was a classy effort, chesting down a Leo Bertos cross before swivelling and lashing a volley.

New Zealand 1 (Chris Wood 14) Solomon Islands 1 (Benjamin Totori 57) at Lawson Tama Stadium. Semifinals tomorrow: Tahiti v Solomon Islands (midday NZ time); New Zealand v New Caledonia (4pm)

Contact Sam Worthington
Sports reporter
Email: sam.worthington@dompost.co.nz

Follow news about Wellington teams on Twitter @dompost_sport

Wellington