Notts County came from behind to earn a point in a 1-1 draw with Exeter City at St James Park this evening.
Although Notts were dominant in the early stages of the match, it was Exeter that went ahead through an Alan Sheehan own goal on 16 minutes. It took just eight minutes for County to equalise, when Ben Burgess tucked away his first goal of the campaign.
Lee Hughes came off the bench and almost found the bottom corner late into the second period and Mike Edwards also forced a strong save from the home stopper. Neither side was able to find a second goal in a closely fought close to the match and County picked up their first competitive draw of 2011/12.
With almost no time to rest, the Magpies were in action for the third time in six days, following the trip to Turin on Thursday night, where they faced Juventus, and the home clash with Walsall on Saturday. Having recorded back-to-back league wins, Notts had every reason to be confident against the Grecians, who had won their two most recent home matches.
One change was made from the team that started in the win over the Saddlers, perhaps with the fixture congestion in mind. Lee Hughes dropped to the bench and Ben Burgess returned from a knock to take his place in attack.
Notts played some nice passing football in the opening stages but failed to break down the hosts' organised defensive unit. And, despite the early dominance, it was the Grecians that struck first.
After winning a corner from a counter attack, Billy Jones floated towards the back post, where Troy Archibald-Henville nodded across goal. In a goalmouth melee, a strong deflection off Alan Sheehan led to the ball finding its way into the County net.
The deadlock was broken on eight minutes, though the Magpies drew level on 16, after Neal Bishop had found space down the right to fire in a low centre. Cristian Montano helped the ball along and Burgess had room to place into the corner from eight yards.
Notts looked much more threatening following the goal and could have added another. Jeff Hughes headed over from Mike Edwards' direct free kick and Gavin Mahon cleared the bar from range with a thunderous hit.
Julian Kelly's searching cross from the right gave the Magpies an even better opportunity. Burgess rose to head into the path of Jeff Hughes, who volleyed just over.
Hughes was involved again from another fine Kelly delivery and seemed to be upended by Richard Duffy inside the area. Several Notts players surrounded the referee but their calls for a penalty were dismissed.
Just before the break, the Grecians almost went ahead from David Noble's free kick. The midfielder curled a shot over the wall towards the left corner, only for Stuart Nelson to tip behind at full reach.
Burgess created County's first chance of the second half with a headed knockdown. Alan Judge collected on the edge of the box but Noble bravely blocked his low strike.
Lee Hughes was introduced in the 53rd minute at the expense of Montano, with the hope of him adding to his four league goals. But, it was Burgess who provided the next scare with a half volley that bounced just past the post.
As Notts upped the pressure, Alan Sheehan's in-swinging cross was met by Mike Edwards and Lenny Pidgeley was forced to parry clear inside his post. Sheehan then swung in a corner, which Bishop headed against the frame of the goal.
On 72 minutes, the hosts came close to delivering another sucker punch, as two of their substitutes combined. Rowan Vine burst into space down the left channel and his low delivery was directed over by Jimmy Keohane.
Bishop volleyed over from 25 yards and Sheehan found the stand with a bending free kick in the dying stages. Lee Hughes came even closer, after Burgess found him with a precise through pass, but his left-footed finish skidded inches wide.
At the other end, Mahon's attempted back pass was anticipated by Vine. The frontman was clean through and the home support were on their feet, but Nelson raced out sharply to smother the ball.
This proved to be the final opportunity of the fixture and both teams had to settle for a point. Next up for Notts was a trip to Stevenage on the Saturday afternoon.
Attendance: 3,474 (188 away supporters)
Man of the Match: Julian Kelly