Accrington Stanley kept their FA Cup dream alive by holding Notts County to a 0-0 draw at Meadow Lane.
The Reds fought hard in an even game against their League One hosts but neither side could find a winner, meaning that both are in the hat for tomorrow’s second round draw ahead of the replay at the Store First Stadium.
John Coleman was forced into making four changes for the tie. Jesse Joronen’s injury saw him replaced by debutant goalkeeper Jack Rose, who signed on loan from West Bromwich Albion earlier in the week.
Nicky Hunt’s suspension for accumulating five yellow cards meant that left back Michael Liddle made a long-awaited return to first-team action with Dean Winnard shifting across to right back.
Josh Windass and James Gray took the places of the ineligible loanees John O’Sullivan and Sean Maguire, who were both refused permission to play in the competition by their parent clubs.
New signing Craig Roddan was on the bench, alongside Kealan Steenson, a midfielder from the Stanley academy, and Kal Naismith, who returned to the first-team fold following a recent bereavement.
In the opening ten minutes, it was the Reds who looked most likely to open the scoring as Shay McCartan threatened twice.
The winger fired wide from 30 yards when Notts County goalkeeper Roy Carroll kicked a clearance straight to the Irishman and then cut inside from the right before shooting with his left foot, but the effort lacked the conviction to trouble the stopper.
The hosts had their first opportunity when veteran midfielder Gary Jones found space on the edge of the area to line up a shot but Tom Aldred got himself in the way; Jones slashed the rebound wide.
An incisive, defence-splitting pass by Lee Molyneux sent Windass skedaddling away down the right but, after breezing past Blair Adams with great pace, the Stanley man put his deft effort over the top with Gray furious at his team-mate for not centering the ball to leave him with an open net.
Full-back Adams raced away at the other end of the field to get in a cross which Ronan Murray could only nod over the bar as County started to come into the game. Jones had a shot deflected from 20 yards and Zeli Ismail beat Rose to the looping ball but fortunately for the Reds his header was wide of the target.
The two sides continued to trade chances as Molyneux put a free-kick over the bar whilst Liam Noble forced Rose into a good save with a powerful shot from distance.
A short-corner routine gave Ismail a chance to break the deadlock but the winger’s shot from 20 yards was well off-target as the sides went into the break at a stalemate.
Stanley were grateful to Liddle for preserving parity in the opening stages of the second half as he blocked a goalbound Murray effort from 12 yards and Garry Thompson put a shot over the bar from the same range minutes later.
Naismith made his return to action, coming on as a substitute for Josh Windass with just over 20 minutes remaining as Coleman’s men tried to find a lucrative winning goal with £18,000 and a spot in round two still up for grabs as the closing stages loomed.
Michael Petrasso cut inside onto his right foot but his shot was easy for Rose to catch whilst Luke Joyce miscued a shot for the Reds as they put together a slick passing move.
All of Stanley’s hard work was almost undone in injury time as Thompson span to get a shot away but it whistled past the upright as the game finished goalless.
Stanley: Rose; Winnard, Aldred, Atkinson, Liddle; Joyce, Procter; McCartan (Roddan 86), Windass (Naismith 67), Molyneux (Carver 77); Gray.
Subs not used: Simpson, Hatfield, Mingoia, Steenson.
Attendance: 3,661 (157 away)