By Chris Bascombe at Deepdale
On an otherwise grim January evening in Lancashire, the Son was rising in all its splendour. Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min has endured a most curious season – the Golden Boot winner last May and searching for those same scoring feet ever since.
To his credit, when Son reminds everyone of his talent, he does not deal in half measures. There was the 13-minute hat-trick against Leicester City in September, and now the FA Cup is the vehicle for the latest masterclass, Son’s sublime double easing Spurs past Preston North End into the fifth round. It is feast or famine at the moment, but when he delivers it is quite the banquet.
Spurs supporters came to Deepdale to see if Harry Kane could rewrite history. Son’s spectacular goal from 25 yards shortly after half-time ensured Kane would have to wait to eclipse Jimmy Greaves’s club goal record, England’s captain kept on the bench. The South Korean, however, might feel his need greater on this particular evening, banishing some of the demons of the past six months. When he dismantles defences like this, it is hard to fathom how and why Son had scored in only three games in his previous 26 for Spurs.
Son’s first was exceptional, shifting the tie his side’s way after Preston had reduced Tottenham to long-range efforts. That seemed a good ploy until the Spurs forward inflicted maximum punishment from 25 yards, working Japhet Tanganga’s inward pass onto his left foot before unleashing past goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 28, 2023
His second was as impressive, Son retaining composure to make space in the penalty area before a ferocious drive into the corner. Where has this Son been? The idea that Antonio Conte’s “negative” tactics are to blame does not stand up to scrutiny, given he scored 24 last season under the same coach with the same style. Is he paying the price for so much football in the past few years? Probably. He is not alone there.
Perhaps he has been feeling the extra pressure since Richarlison arrived, too, the Brazilian offering a different dimension and becoming a cult hero despite niggling injury problems. Even Spurs’ signing of Arnaut Danjuma during the week means Son will have to fight for his place, although it will be guaranteed when he performs like this.
Fresh from diverting to north London from Everton, Danjuma promptly scored on his debut. Suddenly, Conte may feel blessed with attacking options. It did not look that way for 49 minutes, however. Spurs were initially full of passing patterns in midfield but lacked the cutting edge of their forward.
Preston had performed admirably until ultimately undone by what Ryan Lowe, their manager, described as “a world-class player with a world-class finish”. Even then the final score was harsh. “There is not much you can do when Son gets it on his left foot and puts it in the top bins,” Lowe said.
Son had looked the game’s class act whenever in possession, although at first not always entirely comfortable as a No 9. During the first half he kept dropping deep to connect with his midfielders before looking up in search of the kind of runs he once made when Kane was the supplier.
Spurs toiled in the first half, and Preston had plenty of know-how to increase their anxieties. Ched Evans’s hold-up play underlined his experience and there was a steeliness to the Championship side that, before the opening goal, Conte would have appreciated despite his frustration. The Premier League class came to the fore just after half-time.
“Sonny is a top player,” Cristian Stellini, Spurs’ assistant coach, said. “He only needs the right moment and the space to attack. It was a good game for him. I think he felt extra responsibility [without Kane]. You feel that from Sonny.”
Reduced to a watching brief, perhaps Kane would willingly sacrifice his chance of personal glory to see Son back to his best. Neutrals were counting down the minutes for Kane to be introduced from kick-off. They were waiting in vain. Conte looked directly ahead at the Sir Tom Finney Stand. He may even have considered the Bill Shankly Kop to his right and wondered if such exalted company was perfect for a Kane landmark. Any romantic in him remained unmoved.
It was only conceivable Kane would be summoned if the deputies could not get the job done. Son made sure he was not needed.
“Nice one, Sonny,” the Spurs fans sang, the extra glee in their voices apparent as they appreciated their hero’s troubles during this difficult campaign. That made for more desirable listening than some of the more vile chants against their former defender Sol Campbell, the only sour note on an otherwise encouraging evening for Conte.
“I didn’t hear, but I hope it never happens again,” Stellini said.
Preston North End vs Tottenham Hotspur: As it happened
Full-time: PNE 0 Spurs 3
Spurs huffed and puffed in the first half and then, after a half-time chat, blew the Preston house down in the second. Two wonderful finishes from Son and a fine move to create the third let Spurs go marching on.
90 min PNE 0 Spurs 3
Cross-Adair replaces Evans. We'll have two minutes of stoppage time as the travelling Tottenham fans serenade Conte with 'Antonio!'
Preston 0 Spurs 3 (Danjuma) Clever run and though he scuffed the finish it still crept in at the left post. Gil accelerated on a let to right run, sent Kulusevski down the right and he pulled the ball back to the debutant by the penalty spot and he rolled the finish in.
86 min PNE 0 Spurs 2
Son looks as though he's in pain when he comes off, grimacing and with a nauseated look across his mooey. Nonetheless he can take solace from his two goals and the man of the match award.
84 min PNE 0 Spurs 2
Tottenham are managing this well, demonstrating their greater stamina and quality to hold Preston at bat and keep probing.
Son departs. On comes Bryan Gil.
82 min PNE 0 Spurs 2
Alan Shearer is miffed that Spurs are about to take Son off with him on a hat-trick. The game's gone etc.
79 min PNE 0 Spurs 2
Preston corner on the left. Cannon tries to outmuscle Forster but the keeper is tough and times his jump well, gobbling up the inswinger.
77 min PNE 0 Spurs 2
Johnson and Fernandez replace Brady and McCann for Preston.
74 min PNE 0 Spurs 2
Impressive start from Danjuma to initiate a move and almost get on the end of it. Emerson Royal has gone to left wing-back, Perisic on the right and Danjuma through the middle.
71 min PNE 0 Spurs 2
Preston send on Woodburn for Ledson. Spurs make three changes – Skipp, Danjuma (for his debut) and Skipp replace Sessegnon, Doherty and Bentancur.
Preston 0 Tottenham 2 (Son) Excellent move. Docherty sweeps a pass into Perisic, back to goal, in the inside right channel. He flicks it to his left with a velvety touch, Son takes it in his stride, sends Storey off to buy a pint of milk and the Evening Times with a dip of the shoulder and lashes a left-foot shot in at the right post.
67 min PNE 0 Spurs 1
65 min PNE 0 Spurs 1
After a short spell of adventure from North End, Tottenham take the sting out of it by hogging possession, building methodically until they work the chance to cross for Perisic. The Croatia forward leaps and tries to steer it rather than bullet it towards goal but cannot guide it under the cross-bar.
63 min PNE 0 Spurs 1
Whiteman joins an attack from a throw-in high on the left. Excellent work from Evans holds off Bentancur and Doherty and then he lays it off to the midfielder who takes a touch, opens his body and whips a left-foot shot the wrong side of the left post.
61 min PNE 0 Spurs 1
Whiteman wants a penalty when Cannon throws himself to the pitch but the on-loan Everton forward goes into the book instead for diving. Tanganga never touched him.
58 min PNE 0 Spurs 1
Misunderstanding between Kulusevski and Sessegnon wastes a good attacking position. Spurs fans are chanting their love for Antonio Conte.
56 min PNE 0 Spurs 1
Ledson pumps an up and under over Sanchez on the half-volley for Cannon to chase. Out comes Forster but Cannon decides not to use the bounce to try to lob him and doubles back. Shame.
53 min PNE 0 Spurs 1
Doherty leaves his foot in on McCann as he bundles him over. Free-kick on halfway.
Preston 0 Tottenham 1 (Son) Screamer! Cleverly steps off Ledson to buy some space, takes possession from Kulusevski then bends a left-foot shot unstoppably from 22 yards into the bottom left corner with whip and dip.
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 28, 2023
49 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
I do like the funereal version of When the Spurs go Marching in. Lenglet takes possession 30 yards from goal and, with Sessegnon screaming for the ball to be laced down the side, larrups a shot over the bar.
47 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Couple of lollipops from Sessegnon earns him the space to cross but a Preston head gets there first.
46 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
No changes. Tottenham kick off and attack up the left then, following the pattern of the first half, go backwards and then up the right ... and back again ... and yea unto the middle ages.
Half-time: PNE 0 Spurs 0
Not really an edge-of-the-seat experience. Preston are well drilled and are defending very well, Tottenham have been frustrated by the intensity and positioning of their back three and wing-backs. Son has managed a couple of long-range efforts top warm Woodman's hands but they need more quality in their crossing to break this down. Spurs have not had to deal with much threat, it has to be said.
43 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Excellent block/tackle at close range by Lindsay to thwart Kulusevski's shot from the right of the penalty spot.
41 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Preston have defended very well, retreating into two banks of three and five when Spurs are on the attack, forming a white wall. Spurs are trying to get behind via the flanks but the crosses haven't been good enough – Doherty clips one that Woodman picks off and a minute later Sessegnon floats his over the goal.
38 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Tottenham take that second corner short and play in Kulusevski to the right of the D. He takes a touch then blazes a shot over the bar from 20 yards.
36 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Son takes the free-kick and can't beat the front sentry, Brady who heads it behind for a corner and then heads the flick-on from that corner behind for another.
34 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Hughes has two bites at Doherty as the right wing-back tried to work space to cross and nails him illegally at the second attempt. Spurs free-kick, wide right, parallel with the 18-yard line.
32 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Lack of precision from Lenglet when Son makes a dangerous run down the left of the box. Lenglet puts too much gas on the pass and even a gazelle like Son had no chance of fetching it before it skipped out of play.
29 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Sanchez rides his luck with a lucky bounce when flapping under pressure from Cannon in pursuit of a long-ball down the left. The ball, entirely fortuitously, scoops up from his miskick back to Forster and hits his thigh before falling safely back into his stride.
27 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Spurs play it short from agoalkick and Preston hound the ball off them by the left corner flag before working it back to Ledson. The former Everton trainee takes too steps and thumps a right-foot riser over the bar from 20 yards.
25 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
23 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Spurs enjoy a long spell of possession with nine white shirts between them and goal. They try to shift them out of the way with good movement, touch and zippy passing until Son sniffs a gap, barrels through it then wraps his instep around a 22-yard shot that swerves into Woodman's palms as he slaps it away. He didn't send it out far enough to the right to beat Woodman with the bend. Ended up virtually in the middle of goal
21 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Preston whip the ball into the box from the right and after a bit of Barnes-Wallis bobbling Evans and Hughes try to force it through on goal but Tottenham and Sanchez make their blocks and clear.
19 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Evans wins the ball of Lenglet who, I don't think, was a wise signing and recycles the ball over to the left as Cannon, Whiteman and McCann bomb into the box but Browne makes a complete Horlicks of the cross, spraying it straight at Sanchez who hacks it clear.
16 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Son, who has been dropping off behind Kulusevski and Perisic, pounces on possession 25 yards out, spins and thunders a left-foot shot straight down Woodman's throat.
14 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
What is the point of one set of fans singing 'Your support is f------ s---' at the other lot? We're not going back to that tiresome authenticity debate again are we and approved means of conveying passion? And if it were so, who are they to know it and pass judgment?
11 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Nice pass from Sessegnon down the outside of the left flank, bends perfectly into Perisic's path and he takes it on to the byline. Son, too hesitant, hangs back by the 18-yard line rather than making a dart and Perisic's cut-back can't reach him through all the Preston legs.
McCann needs treatment for a bloodied nose.
9 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
All Tottenham so far, taking pot shots and hogging possession, probing from wing to wing. Browne wins Preston some respite after the corner with a crisp tackle on Sessegnon.
7 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Perisic blasts the free-kick into the wall and it bobbles through. Kulusevski takes it off Sanchez's foot to shoot with his left straight into Ledson's block. Out it goes for another corner.
5 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Tottenham take the corner short and Preston swarm to push them back. Tanganga is hurt in a wild tackle by, I think, Storey. Free-kick, 30 yards out, left of centre.
4 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Lindsay heads clear from a chip up the Spurs inside-left channel. Son is dropping into an inside-left position with Kulusevski to the right and Perisic through the middle. He lays it off to Bentancur who finds Sessegnon galloping down the left and his cross is headed behind by Brady for a corner.
2 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Bentancur shields the ball, heads back towards his own goal, spins and starts to build, prompting Tanganga to sweep the ball over to the left for Son who has dropped back. But he can't hang on to it and possession is exchanged again.
1 min PNE 0 Spurs 0
Preston kick-off, overloading the left and chip a diagonal over to that side to win a throw-in off Doherty and Tanganga.
The players are coming out
Preston in lilywhite and navy, Tottenham in baby blue.
The BBC has swept the studio for rogue mobiles
No 'porn' noises should promote/pollute our enjoyment pf this:
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) January 28, 2023
Your teams in black and white
Preston North End Woodman; Storey, Lindsay, Hughes; Browne, McCann, Ledson, Whiteman, Brady; Cannon, Evans.
Substitutes Cornell, Bauer, Diaby, Cunningham, Potts, Fernandez, Johnson, Woodburn, Cross-Adair
Tottenham Hotspur Forster; Tanganga, Sanchez, Lenglet; Doherty, Bissouma, Bentancur, Sessegnon; Kulusevski, Son, Perisic.
Substitutes Austin, Dier, Davies, Emerson Royal, Skipp, Hojbjerg, Bryan, Danjuma, Kane.
Referee Peter Bankes (Merseyside).
Chris Bascombe reports from Deepdale
Everyone here ready to hail Harry Kane for breaking Tottenham’s goalscoring is obviously absolutely thrilled he is on the bench… Will we see him tonight? Only if Spurs are doing badly, one suspects.
Harry Kane has been ill this week but is on the bench and may get on later to gun for the Tottenham goal record he shares with Jimmy Greaves. Another Spurs striker, Troy Parrott, can't play because he's on loan at North End and they have understandably stopped him from playing. Liam Delap, on loan at glorious Deepdale from Man City, was Cup-tied when playing in the third round for Stoke City.
New Spurs signing Arnaut Danjuma joins Kane on the bench.
Preston boss Ryan Lowe named a strong side with only two changes from last week's 2-1 win at Birmingham. Ben Whiteman replaced Ben Woodburn and Ched Evans came in for Delap.
Your Proud Preston
In numerical order ... bah!
— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) January 28, 2023
Tottenham make wholesale changes
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 28, 2023
Preview: Giant-killing can ruin your season
By Stuart Brennan
Ryan Lowe knows better than anyone how an old-fashioned FA Cup giant-killing can break your season just as easily as it can make it
The lively Scouser, preparing his Preston team to face Tottenham in the fourth round, played in one of the biggest upsets of recent years when Shrewsbury Town defied an 80-place gap to beat Premier League side Everton 2-1 at Gay Meadow in 2003.
Lowe is desperate for his Lilywhites to give a good account of themselves as they size up Spurs, for whom Harry Kane is seeking one more goal to break Jimmy Greaves’ club goalscoring record.
He remembers, however, that after the euphoria of dumping out the Merseysiders, the League Two side were thrashed 4-0 at home by Chelsea, won just two more games in the last four months of the season and ended up relegated from the Football League.
With Preston just two points off the pace in the chase for Championship play-off places, Lowe says he has to be sure that his team’s performance enhances their season rather than helps to derail it, as it did in Shrewsbury’s cautionary tale.
“These types of game can bring memories, and they can also help you,” says Lowe, who heads into the fourth round tie at Deepdale on the back of four straight home defeats in the league.
“We got relegated after beating Everton. Gay Meadow used to flood and we had about seven games in hand so we thought we would be alright, but we weren’t, obviously.
“For lower league teams these games can help you financially and then you get out of the cup and focus on your league - I’m not saying we want to go out, we will enjoy the ride, but ultimately the league is where we want to really achieve something good.”
Preston’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder Alan Browne is likely to be asked to play out of position as a wing-back, up against Spurs danger man Son Heung-min.
Says Browne: “It depends how good he is on the day, but he could take me to the cleaners! I’ve played against top-quality players in the past, and the gap is probably not as big as you would think. It’s just the consistency.
“We have players who can do what they can do, but they do it every week while we show glimpses here and there.”