Match-winner Smith to see specialist

BAD back or not, Tommy Smith pushed his injury worries to one side to be crowned the most unlikely of match-winners at Portman Road on Saturday.

BAD back or not, Tommy Smith pushed his injury worries to one side to be crowned the most unlikely of match-winners at Portman Road on Saturday.

Smith had already withdrawn from the New Zealand squad, ahead of this week’s two friendly internationals, to see a specialist about his ongoing back problem.

And the Ipswich Town centre-back was all geared up to be spending another afternoon on the substitutes’ bench, watching his team-mates perform against Leeds, when fellow defender Darren O’Dea hobbled out of the warm-up just 45 minutes before kick-off.

Smith stepped into the breach, to start the match, and duly proved that his manager Roy Keane would give Mystic Meg a good run for her money by heading home an 82nd minute winner in Town’s 2-1 victory over Leeds United.

“It was a very strange day for me,” explained Smith.

“Coming into the day, I was thinking that I’d be on the bench, but Darren pulling out was a bit of a shock. We had already started the warm-up and then Darren said he was feeling his knee, so I was told to prepare properly.

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“The gaffer said to me, just before kick off - “you know you’re going to score today” - and it happened!” added Smith, who had scored his first goal in a Town shirt in the opening day win at Middlesbrough.

Smith also revealed that he had been hampered by back problems since February, even though he had managed to impress with three solid performances for New Zealand at the World Cup finals in South Africa over the summer.

“Playing is not the problem with my bad back, it’s the travelling and sitting down,” continued Smith.

“If the New Zealand games (against Honduras and Paraguay) were in England then I’d definitely be OK. But 24-hour flights are not going to do my back any good. I’ve had a couple of scans and I think a disc in my back is pressing against a nerve. I will see a specialist this week.”

Town are up to fifth in the table, after Jason Scotland’s opener and Smith’s late header sandwiched an equaliser from Robert Snodgrass.

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