County snatched a dramatic last-gasp 1-1 draw at National League leaders Sutton Utd on Saturday afternoon, with a second half Harry Beautyman strike cancelled out by a James Jennings header in the last seconds of the game at Gander Green Lane.
Strikers Jack Stretton and Paddy Madden both earned their first starts for County, with the duo starting up top in place of Tom Walker and the injured Harry Cardwell.
Walker took a place on the bench alongside the returning Macauley Southam-Hales, with the Welshman featuring for the first time since suffering injury in a terrible challenge at Eastleigh.
With The Hatters searching for a big three points to keep their league-leading hosts within sight, Derby loanee Stretton fired a cross-shot wide and into the side netting early on.
An entertaining first half pinged from end to end with increasing regularity, with Ben Hinchliffe springing into action soon after to make a big save from a frantic goalmouth scramble.
New signing Madden hit the crossbar as he sought his first goal in County colours with a huge opportunity for The Hatters as the game continued to ebb and flow, with the lively Elliot Newby seeing his rebound sliced off the goalline.
Omar Bugiel again found himself in on goal minutes later, with only the brilliant pressure applied by Ryan Croasdale proving enough to see Bugiel’s effort skied from inside the penalty area.
A lapse in concentration by Keane then allowed Sutton in once again, but after dispossessing the County defender, Harry Beautyman could only flick the resulting effort off the outside of the post with only Hinchliffe to beat.
Newby and Madden then linked up once more as the former crossed for the latter to glance a header agonisingly wide of the far post as half-time edged ever closer.
Both sides continued to push for an opener, but half-time arrived with no change to the scoreline following an absorbing first 45 minutes at Gander Green Lane.
After a first half in which both sides struck the woodwork, the second half started much in the same vein, with Beautyman seeing a big chance blocked brilliantly by James Jennings less than thirty seconds into the restart.
County saw a shout for a penalty waved away up the other end when Stretton burst into the area and tumbled under pressure from the Sutton backline, before the resulting corner saw Simon Rusk’s side implement a training ground move which Jennings almost finished in style – but for another excellent defensive block.
A game which threatened a goal all the way through did see the hosts take a lead which was deserved on balance, with Beautyman planting a well-taken header past Hinchliffe from a pinpoint Aaron Simpson cross.
Strong shouts for handball were again waved away in the Sutton area as County looked for an immediate response, before the loose ball fell for Madden to blaze over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Alex Reid toiled away down the left as pulled a cross back for Madden to tee up Newby as County looked for a route back into the game, with Newby’s curling effort inces wide of the far pair via the deflection.
Rusk turned to the bench, with Southam-Hales returning to action alongside Tom Walker with twenty minutes remaining, but County struggled to threaten the Sutton goal as time ticked on.
Striker Richie Bennett was also thrown into the mix as the increasingly cagey affair entered its final ten minutes, with the former Port Vale forward almost setting up a late leveller as he nodded on for James Jennings to blaze wildly over the crossbar from a good position inside the area.
Madden headed a glorious chance straight at Sutton ‘keeper Bouzanis bang on the ninetieth minute, but as the National League leaders seemed to have expertly seen out four minutes of stoppage time, left-back Jennings pounced to head home in the fifth minute of time added on to salvage a point for Rusk’s men on the road.
County line-up: Hinchliffe; Minihan, Hogan, Keane, J. Jennings; Crosdale, Maynard (Bennett 82); Reid, Newby (Southam-Hales, 70), Stretton (Walker, 70); Madden.