Joe Morrell’s third goal of the season earned Cheltenham Town a deserved battling point against Notts County in Sky Bet League Two at the LCI Rail Stadium.
The visitors were unbeaten in five versus Cheltenham, and that record looked set to be extended when Terry Hawkridge fired in the opener just three minutes before half-time when controlling and then converting Jon Stead’s low driven cross from the left-hand side.
But Morrell’s second goal in two matches brought the Robins level after 66 minutes when he hit a low long-range shot that was deflected into the net past Adam Collin.
Substitute Brian Graham had three chances to win it during the second period, but Collin was equal to all of them and despite a spirited late push for all three points, the hosts had to settle for a draw.
Gary Johnson made one change to the team that drew at table toppers Luton Town, as the suspended Harry Pell was replaced by Jake Andrews.
Bristol City loanee Andrews was making his first start for the Robins after one substitute appearance against Port Vale, coming in for Pell at right midfield in a 4-5-1 formation.
Cheltenham started with plenty of intent as Ilias Chatzitheodoridis and Kevin Dawson combined neatly on the left before the latter crossed for Mo Eisa, but the Robins’ top scorer saw his cut back blocked and cleared.
Dawson then attempted the spectacular when Andrews whipped a cross into the box from the wide right, but the Irishman failed to make a connection with his bicycle-kick.
Stead, who scored twice when the Magpies won 3-2 at Whaddon Road last season, then smashed a powerful cross into the middle but nobody could get onto the end of it.
Some neat play in middle then lead to a chance for Eisa, but despite wriggling clear of his marker, the Sudan-born forward could only flash his effort wide.
The action really started to heat up after 15 minutes, as Taylor Moore’s soft header back to Scott Flinders was intercepted by Stead, who fell over after trying to turn the goalkeeper, but no penalty was given.
That prompted wild protests from the visiting bench, and more pressure from Notts County was to follow but to no avail as the Robins held firm at the back.
The lively Stead then ran onto a quick free-kick from Jorge Grant, but Flinders just managed to deflect his shot away from a tight angle as Kevin Nolan’s side started to grow into the game.
With ten minutes to go until the interval, the match settled down with few clear-cut chances until the hosts played their best move of the game.
Dawson played a sublime pass from left to right with Andrews controlling excellently, but Carl Winchester couldn’t turn in his dinked cross to the far post.
Coincidentally, Notts County then enjoyed their best pattern of play, and when Stead busted into the penalty box, his cut-back was slammed into the roof of the net by Hawkridge for his second goal of the campaign to give Nolan’s team a late first half lead.
Johnson made a double substitution at half-time, as Graham and Joe Rodon replaced full-backs Moore and Chatzitheodoridis.
The Robins went about trying to get back into the match straight away, as Andrews crossed to the back post where Daniel Jones managed an important headed interception to concede a corner just as Dawson looked set to get a touch.
As Johnson’s side pushed forward they were nearly caught on the counter attack as Grant broke away and played a one-two with Shola Ameobi, but Grant’s effort on the slide was eventually gathered by Flinders.
Rodon then turned a dangerous cross out for a corner, and the resulting set-piece was volleyed into the side netting by Ameobi as the visitors sought to double their lead just past the hour mark.
But it was the Robins who equalised in the 66th minute, as Joe Morrell, who scored a cracker against Luton last time out, hit a deflected shot from around 25-yards-out to bring Cheltenham back on level terms.
The home crowd started to find their voice as Graham then tested Collin twice, forcing the County stopper to push his shot wide after super play, before rolling another effort into his arms from just inside the box.
The Scottish forward then had a one-on-one shot blocked by the keeper, and Eisa’s follow up was blasted over the crossbar on the half-volley as Cheltenham went all out attack in search of a winner.
Jerell Sellars was fouled right on the edge of the penalty area after 84 minutes and Eisa curled the resulting set-piece inches wide of the top corner as Cheltenham did all they could to net a winner, but had to settle for a point.
ROBINS: Flinders (Gk), Grimes, Atangana (Sellars 75), Dawson, Winchester ©, Boyle, Eisa, Morrell, Moore (Rodon 45), Chatzitheodoridis (Graham 45), Andrews.
Subs not used: Lovett (Gk), Wright, Odelusi, Lloyd.
NOTTS COUNTY: Collin (Gk), Tootle, Dickenson, Hewitt, Duffy ©, Ameobi (Forte 74), Grant, Hawkridge, Husin (Noble 80), Hall, Stead (Smith 85).
Subs not used: Pindroch (Gk), Virtue, Alessandra, Brisley.
ATTENDANCE: 2,273 (196 from Nottingham)
REFEREE: Graham Horwood