A day after he was forced to stay at home in his sickbed, Eddie Howe was left needing another long lie down after one of the most bonkers matches St James’ Park has ever seen.
The Newcastle boss was a doubt to take his place on the touchline against Luton after missing his pre-match press duties on Friday through illness.
But while Howe passed himself fit for duty in the dugout, his health was put to the test by his hot-and-cold players in the first 4-4 draw here since the Magpies’ famous comeback against Arsenal in 2011.
Just like in that classic 13 years ago, it was Newcastle who again fought back for a point, albeit from 4-2 down not 4-0. Yet the mood after substitute Harvey Barnes’ leveller was very different to when the late Cheick Tiote equalised, for this was a match Howe’s men needed to win if they want to be back in Europe next season.
‘It was probably a great game for the neutral, but not so much if you’re associated to us because there was a huge determination to win and we’re disappointed not to,’ admitted Howe afterwards.
Harvey Barnes scored the equaliser for Newcastle in a sensational eight-goal thriller
Eddie Howe may need another lie down after a recent illness having watched one of the most remarkable games ever seen at St James' Park
‘There was lots of good and lots of bad’.
The bad was undoubtedly defensively with Newcastle having now conceded 10 goals in their last three home games – more than in their previous 16.
In particular, left-back Dan Burn had a torrid afternoon against Chiedozie Ogbene, with fans calling for him to be subbed, which Howe then duly did.
Newcastle (4-3-3): Dubravka 5; Trippier 7.5, Schar 6, Botman 5.5, Burn 3 (Livramento 6, 64); Longstaff 7, Guimaraes 7, Miley 7; Murphy 6, Gordon 6.5 (Wilson 7, 45), Almiron 6 (Barnes 7, 63).
Subs not used: Karius, Dummett, Ritchie, Krafth, Hall, White.
Scorers: Longstaff 7, 23, Trippier 67, Barnes 73.
Booked: Burn, Murphy.
Manager: Eddie Howe – 6
Luton (3-4-3): Kaminski 5; Mengi 6, Osho 5.5, Bell 6; OGBENE 8, Sambi Lokonga 6, Barkley 7.5, Doughty 6.5 (Burke 6, 79); Clark 6 (Mpanzu 6.5, 68), Morris 7 (Brown 6, 79), Adebayo 6.5 (Woodrow 6, 88).
Subs not used: Krul, Berry, Kabore, Chong, Brown, Townsend.
Scorers: Osho 21, Barkley 40, Morris 59 pen, Adebayo 62
Booked: Osho, Sambi Lokonga.
Manager: Rob Edwards - 7
Referee: T. Bramall – 7.5
The good was, of course, the fightback from two goals down and it was only the second time this season the Toon have gained a point from a losing position. ‘That was a big step forward,’ said Howe.
But this was two steps back from their fine 3-1 midweek win at Aston Villa, their best away performance of the season, and they are down to ninth in the table.
For Rob Edwards and Luton, however, the only way is up. Yes, letting slip a two-goal cushion was a bitter pill to swallow for Edwards, his Hatters players and their travelling fans.
However, the supporters’ chants of ‘We are staying up’ did not seem misguided for this was the second successive game in which they have scored four goals, following the midweek thrashing of Brighton. They are 16th in the table and one point above the drop zone with a game in hand on the bottom three.
‘I am very proud,’ said Edwards. ‘I felt sick at times, I felt elation at times, but I was pleased with the performance, our character and our resilience.
‘It was great to come to a team who were in the Champions League and take the game to them.
‘After going two goals up, there is a tinge of disappointment that we weren’t able to see it out.
‘But I will look back on this in the cold light of day that we came to St James’ Park, we were brave and we got a point.’
Edwards must have feared the worst when his side went behind after only seven minutes.
Lewis Miley’s exquisite raking ball from inside the centre circle found an advanced Kieran Trippier on the right touchline. Trippier then expertly crossed along the deck to Sean Longstaff, who was on the spot to steer home from 10 yards.
Sean Longstaff notched two goals in a bonkers start to the game for Newcastle
Gabriel Osho did excellently in order to get an equaliser for Luton to make it 1-1
Longstaff celebrates after scoring his second goal of the match to put Newcastle back in front
But Luton got back on terms in the 21st minute. Ross Barkley’s free-kick into the box was headed back across the middle by Carlton Morris and Gabriel Osho rose highest to nod over a helpless Martin Dubravka and in off the bar.
St James’ Park was silenced, but only temporarily, as two minutes later Longstaff had a second. It was a classic counter-attack goal, as Miguel Almiron won the ball in his own box and sent Anthony Gordon flying down the left wing.
He got the better of Osho, turning him inside out and getting a strong shot away inside the box. And while Thomas Kaminski saved, his parry fell to the feet of an unmarked Longstaff, who had another comfortable finish from virtually the same spot as his first.
Luton, though, hit back again five minutes before the break.
Barkley escaped Longstaff’s tame tackle then broke forward with purpose before passing to Alfie Doughty on the left. His cross was then tamely parried by Dubravka straight to Barkley, who could not miss from six yards for his third goal of the season.
Ross Barkley equalised again for Luton to make it 2-2 after Sean Longstaff's two quick-fire goals
Carlton Morris added Luton Town's third goal to completely turn the match on its head
Luton Town's Elijah Adebayo celebrates scoring his side's fourth goal of the game
After the break, fit-again Newcastle striker Callum Wilson was introduced for Gordon, who had been playing as a makeshift No9 but twisted his ankle and could not carry on in the second half.
However, it was the visitors’ No9 who was to have the next big say after 59 minutes.
Luton were awarded a penalty by VAR when Ogbene was pulled down by Burn and VAR adjudged the contact had carried on into the box.
Morris then stepped up and, though his first coolly taken spot-kick had to be retaken after the referee had already blown for an infringement, he repeated his trick of sending Dubravka the wrong way to give Luton the lead.
Kieran Trippier responded by scoring Newcastle's third at a raucuous St James' Park, before Barnes earned a point for the hosts
Three minutes later, the Hatters h were in dreamland as Elijah Adebayo – fresh from his midweek hat-trick against Brighton - fired past Dubravka from Barkley’s lay-off.
Yet the hosts finally stirred from their slumber and pulled one back when Bruno Guimaraes crossed with the outside of his boot and captain Trippier volleyed in left-footed at the far post.
From then on, you just knew an equaliser was coming, although you would not have predicted the source.
Barnes had been out since September but, just 10 minutes after his reintroduction, he reacted to a loose ball on the edge of the box and drilled left footed into the bottom left corner to send St James’ wild.
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