By Dane Vincent
Notts County notched up their fourth draw in six games in a frustrating stalemate against Aldershot Town.
Although the home side dominated for the majority, they failed to make the most of their chances in an entertaining encounter on a showery Saturday afternoon.
Hans Backe stuck with the flexible 4-3-3 formation that has proven to be so effective for the Magpies on their travels. Akin to last Saturday against Bury, Rodgers and Ritchie occupied the wide berths with the freedom to attack.
Stephen Hunt and Jamie Clapham both retained their places, slotting in at centre back and left-back respectively. Captain Neal Bishop, alongside returning duo Ben Davies and Johnnie Jackson made up the three-man central midfield.
Typical of a Meadow Lane display, Notts pressed early, making use of their wide players. Lee Hughes, who netted twice at Gigg Lane, looked a huge threat and could have put his side in front on numerous occasions inside opening stages.
The best of the early efforts arrived when Ritchie wasted no time in whipping a high cross towards the back post. Hughes fought off a defender and looped a header, almost in slow motion, just beyond the bar, onto the roof of the net.
Aldershot's organised back-line was by no means succumbing to County's patient passing football, forcing an array of long-range strikes. Brendan Moloney, surging forward down the right, had Mikhael Jamiez-Ruiz stretching with one of these when he swung narrowly beyond the top-left corner.
The visitors appeared dangerous on the break with their main threat Louie Soares seemingly having the potential to carve openings from the wing. One instance saw him tee up Lewis Chalmers to strike just inches wide.
With the orange glow of the score-board indicating that half-time was approaching, the Shots nearly crept in front. Scott Donnelly collected a clearance on the edge of the box and forced Kasper Schmeichel to flick the ball away low to his right.
But it was the Notts that nearly headed in at the break a goal to the good when Jackson broke free down the left wing. An accurate delivery saw Hughes' downward header tipped over by the fully-stretched Shots stopper.
After the interval both teams seemed to cancel each other out, hindering the number of efforts on goal. However, with the Kop cranking up the volume Notts were bombarding Town's area with crosses - but to no avail.
Aldershot were the first to tempt a reaction from the spectators when Hudson's shot from distance rustled the side-netting. Rodgers retaliated moments later with a stinging drive, which Jamiez-Ruiz parried to safety.
He was tested once more when Ritchie found an opening, but again the goalkeeper was equal to it, sharply smothering the ball down to his left. Notts were gradually imposing a greater authority on the game.
Despite this, the visitors nearly edged in front. Donnelly's centre found the head of the towering Marvin Morgan but his glancing header could only skim the foot of the left upright.
The ante was upped with the game at its most exciting period, and both sides looked eager to take the lead. In end-to-end action Morgan fizzed a promising effort across the face of goal before Hughes fired straight at Jamiez-Ruiz in front of the Haydn Green Family Stand.
From the move's resulting corner, Hughes stooped to header into the far corner. This time a goal was prevented by Donnelly's chest on the goal-line.
Somehow the game remained tied when Davies' cross caused a scramble inside the six-yard box. Jackson hit powerfully, only for a hoard of Shots defenders to pile into goalmouth.
Pressure was building up and County were continuing their persistent onslaught. Craig Westcarr and Rodgers both came close in the dying stages, but neither could break the deadlock.
The Magpies stay in sixth place, four points adrift of Tuesday's opponents, second placed Rochdale. For the trip to Spotland they will be without top-scorer Hughes who picked up his fifth booking of the season.
Attendance: 6,500 (552 Aldershot Town supporters)
P & J Fencing Man of the Match: Matt Ritchie
Notts County: Kasper Schmeichel, Brendan Moloney, Matt Ritchie (Westcarr 80), Graeme Lee, Lee Hughes, Neal Bishop, Ben Davies, Jamie Clapham, Stephen Hunt, Luke Rodgers, Johnnie Jackson.
Substitutes: Russell Hoult, John Thompson, Ricky Ravenhill, Karl Hawley, Craig Westcarr, Dan Jones, Ade Akinbiyi.
Yellow Card(s): Hughes (35)
Aldershot Town: Mikhael Jamiez-Ruiz, Ben Herd, Anthony Straker, Chris Blackburn, Anthony Charles, Louie Soares, Lewis Chalmers (Halls 78), Marvin Morgan (Grant 82), Scott Donnelly, Kirk Hudson (Winfield 90), Andy Sandell.
Substitutes: Clark Masters, John Grant, John Halls. Daniel Hylton, David Winfield, Bobby Hopkinson, Reece Connolly.
Yellow Card(s): Sandell (39), Straker (53)