IT’S a long and winding road to Burnley from Tyneside.
And Newcastle United’s season could prove to have as many twists and turns.
Last night’s game against Burnley was an example.
Alan Pardew’s patched-up team was awful before the break.
Yet they left Turf Moor with what could prove a valuable Premier League point in five month’s time after a second-half comeback.
They weren’t convincing, and Pardew needs more players back from injury - and quick.
Yet their spirit was evident in the club’s first competitive visit to Turf Moor since 1983.
And at least United’s 4,000 travelling fans had Papiss Demba Cisse’s equaliser to warm them on what was a bitterly cold winter’s night in Lancashire.
Newcastle, and Mike Williamson, were given a couple of scares after an early spell of possession.
Danny Ings, repeatedly linked with the club in the summer, got ahead of Williamson inside the box in eighth minute, but the striker was denied by an acrobatic save from goalkeeper Rob Elliot.
Soon after Williamson was booked for a foul on Ings.
Ashley Barnes shot over the bar as Burnley pressed for an opener, while United countered through Sammy Ameobi, whose low shot was stopped by Tom Heaton.
But the game was scrappy and untidy.
And both sets of fans attempted to lift their teams as the half-hour mark approached.
Cisse, on his return to the starting XI, saw little of the ball.
Midfielder Mehdi Abeid, back in the team after recovering from a broken toe, shot at Heaton at his near post after a decent, and rare, move forward from Newcastle involving Cisse and Ayoze Perez.
But United were behind within seconds of Abeid’s chance.
A lofted ball forward was knocked to Boyd in space by Ings, and he lashed a fierce shot through a crowded box and past Elliot, who got nowhere near it.
The goal quietened Newcastle’s previously boisterous support, massed behind Elliot in the ageing away end. They’d expected more from an admittedly weakened team.
Thankfully, they got more after the break.
Pardew made two changes – Steven Taylor and Remy Cabella replaced Williamson and Perez – and the team was soon level.
A shot from Cabella was blocked by Stephen Ward, and the ball ran to Daryl Janmaat on the right. Janmaat’s cross was flicked at the near post to Cisse, who finished from close range.
United, revitalised by the goal, were a more confident side. They had more about them in possession.
And the away end was again bouncing, and there was steam, literally, rising out of the stand into the cold night air as club’s fans went through their reportoire.
Still, Burnley – who lost Stephen Ward to injury – had their moments, though Newcastle were the dominant force.
But chances, as in the first half, were hard to come by, and striker Emmanuel Riviere replaced Ameobi with a quarter of an hour left.
The finale was as bitty and niggly as the rest of the game, but United made their point. They hadn’t been rolled over.
And Newcastle’s players – who face Chelsea at St James’s Park on Saturday – were given a standing ovation as they left the field.
The road to Europe is a long one, and it’s going to get bumpy at times.
Just look at the fixtures coming up for United, who dropped down to 10th in the league.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Elliot 6; Janmaat 6, Williamson 5 (S Taylor, 46, 7), Dummett 6, Haidara 6; Abeid 6, Tiote 7; Gouffran 6, Perez 6 (CABELLA, 46, 7), Ameobi 6 (Riviere, 75, 6); Cisse 7. Subs not used: Alnwick, Streete, Anita, Armstrong.
BURNLEY: Heaton; Ward (Mee, 66), Shackell, Keane, Trippier; Boyd, Jones, Marney, Arfield; Barnes (Jutkiewicz, 85) Ings. Subs not used: Gilks, Sordell, Kightly, Wallace, Long.
Man of the match: Remy Cabella. Things only hotted up on a freezing night after his introduction.
Highlight: The backing from Newcastle’s fans, who were loud and proud on the night.
Lowlight: The entire first half – United were awful, and deservedly trailed at the break.
Goals: Boyd 34, Cisse 48
Bookings: Williamson 10, Keane 55, Tiote 80, Arfield 90
Referee: Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)