Once the dust began to settle three things were abundantly clear. Luton grace the Premier League and deserve to stay up, Dan Burn is no longer the answer at left-back for Newcastle and games like this are the reason why England’s top tier makes such a financial killing from overseas television rights.
By the end of an often chaotic, always compelling afternoon, Eddie Howe’s hopes of leading Newcastle on another European adventure next season were dented, Chiedozie Ogbene had delivered a masterclass in right-wing play and, at the heart of Rob Edwards’s midfield, Ross Barkley had rolled back the years.
With Alexander Isak having failed a late fitness test and the benched Callum Wilson not yet ready for a full 90 minutes, Newcastle began without a recognised central striker. It did not prevent them from taking an early lead when Lewis Miley’s gorgeous pass and Kieran Trippier’s cross prefaced a fierce first-time shot unleashed by the on-rushing Sean Longstaff that evaded Thomas Kaminski’s grasp.
Not that a Luton side, evidently buoyed up by last Tuesday’s 4-0 win against Brighton, were about to surrender. They had started brightly with the exciting Ogbene repeatedly dodging Burn as he sashayed down the right.
Sure enough, they swiftly equalised when a floated Barkley free kick was nodded back across goal, enabling Gabriel Osho to rise above allcomers and direct a header beyond Martin Dubravka.
As entertaining as Luton’s set-piece specialists were to watch, their high defensive line was often so high risk that Newcastle sensed opportunity. Accordingly, they quickly restored their lead when Anthony Gordon accelerated beyond that backline, showing Osho a clean pair of heels.
The winger turned emergency central striker soon tested Kaminski with a shot that the goalkeeper could merely parry, leaving it to bounce kindly into the advancing Longstaff’s path. Cue another impressive finish. Not to mention a very passable impersonation of Frank Lampard in his pomp from a central midfielder harbouring hopes of an England call-up.
Barkley is not such a shabby midfielder himself and duly revelled in reminding everyone of his ability by not merely pulling plenty of strings from deep but scoring Luton’s second equaliser.
The midfielder began the move that concluded with him placing a shot into an empty net after the wrong-footed Dubravka could only parry Alfie Doughty’s shot. Until then, Elijah Adebayo, the scorer of a hat-trick against Brighton, had not been involved as much as he would have wanted but the striker’s clever decoy manoeuvre succeeded in distracting Newcastle’s defence to the point where Barkley could pick his spot.
The fading Gordon was replaced by Wilson at half-time but before the newcomer had much time to make an impact Luton won a penalty after Burn hauled Ogbene back in the area.
Although Tom Bramall, the referee, initially awarded a free kick just outside the box, a Var check confirmed the offence had occurred inside it. Carlton Morris stepped forward and beat Dubravka only for Bramall to order the kick to be retaken. Displaying commendable poise, Morris converted again and, this time, it counted.
Burn’s concession of possession precipitated Barkley laying the ball off to Adebayo to sweep a shot into the bottom corner. The moment had come for Howe to further raid his bench and, shortly after Tino Livramento and Harvey Barnes had replaced Burn and Miguel, Trippier pulled things back to 3-4 courtesy of a fine volley.
Barnes then marked his return from a foot injury suffered in September by collecting a loose ball and slamming it home from the edge of the area. Suddenly Luton were clinging on but they almost won it during 10 minutes of stoppage time when Barkley’s lofted pass preceded Ogbene volleying straight at Dubravka.
No matter; draws are rarely more memorable than this.