Football: Preston given late expectations

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Preston North End 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Red Rose Gold the signs read in the Lowthorpe Road Stand and as a gardener might put it, this was a late flowering variety. It was injury time before Michael Holt got the equaliser in this Coca-Cola Cup second-round tie to give Preston hope for the return leg at White Hart Lane next Tuesday.

This after an evening when Lancashire, not London, appeared more likely to be de-flowered. Tottenham led for 88 minutes of this match, thanks to Darren Anderton's goal while many of the 16,258 crowd were still finding their seats, and Spurs will be kicking themselves that they did not return south with a victory.

The Premiership side could and should have pushed the tie beyond the reach of their Second Division opponents, instead, a 19-year-old striker who was released by Blackburn on a free transfer this summer and was making his first start, reigned them back. Now a surprise is a possibility, albeit a slight one.

Holt had been banging his head against the twin obstacles of Colin Calderwood and Sol Campbell all evening, but when Ian Bryson hit a low cross in from the right, he slid the ball in from close range. From a largely forgettable match, his memories will be warm at least.

On a cold, clear night which gave glorious views of the Pennines, the initial sights on the pitch were gruesome for the home crowd.

Tottenham were facing at least one known quantity in their former player, Bobby Mimms, who was making his debut for the 10th club of his career. Perhaps they had too much information, because the 32-year-old goalkeeper had barely time to gauge the angles of his new home ground before he was picking the ball out of the net.

Anderton, who had been doubtful before the match with his long-standing groin problem, announced his fitness with a flamboyant touch within two minutes. Receiving the ball 35 yards out, he turned in an almost lazy- looking manner that would have had seasoned Spurs watchers reminiscing about Chris Waddle and as the Preston defence held on, walloped the ball past Mimms. The goalkeeper looked as astounded as the rest of his team- mates.

The goal had the same effect on Preston as a thump to the head and for much of the tie they had a distinctly concussed appearance. Anderton, flourishing in a free role, and Chris Armstrong peppered the home goal in the first half and Mimms was again called into action to make three saves at the start of the second half.

When the anticipated avalanche did not materialise, however, Preston clawed themselves back into the match and in the last 30 minutes they huffed and puffed around the Tottenham goal. It seemed as if their labours would be in vain, but then Holt struck.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Mimms; Kay, Wilcox, Kidd, Barrick; Rankine, Davey, Bryson, Kilbane; Saville, Holt. Substitutes not used: Atkinson, McDonald, Squires.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Wilson, Calderwood, Campbell, Edinburgh; Fox, Nielsen, Howells, Anderton; Armstrong, Allen. Substitutes not used: Baardsen, Nethercott, Rosenthal.

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).