Premier League management won't seem quite as difficult a business this morning to Paul Ince. The man entrusted with the job of filling Mark Hughes' shoes no longer has to look up at most of the division following three points secured late on through a goal scored by one of his substitutes and made by another.
Matt Derbyshire swept home six minutes from time to lift Blackburn Rovers out of the bottom three, halt Fulham's impressive run of five wins in six League games and turn life at Ewood several shades brighter.
Principally it was the cameo from the on-loan Chilean Carlos Villanueva on his Premier League debut – a diagonal cross which Roque Santa Cruz headed down into the heart of the area – that lit up a fading game.
"We had to freshen things up and Carlos gives you that bit of flair," Ince said. "He will get fitter and sharper and needs to adjust to the Premier League because he has only been in the country a couple of months.
"But he was unlucky not to score a second goal and, like Matt Derbyshire, gives us something different."
With David Dunn injured once more and Keith Treacy handed a league debut, Morten Gamst Pedersen switched to the right and Blackburn were still adjusting when Paul Robinson superbly clawed a close-range shot over as Andy Johnson hooked his foot round Simon Davies' pass.
If that was perceived as a sign of vulnerability in a side who had conceded four goals in each of their previous two matches, the response was heartening.
Keith Andrews rippled the side netting with a first-time volley to Jason Roberts' header and the striker himself sliced wide from a tight angle.
Although Pedersen then put slightly too much on a dangerous free-kick across goal, he followed up with the short pass from which Santa Cruz took aim 18 yards out and brought a sharp low save from Mark Schwarzer. Fulham were aiming to record a fourth consecutive League and cup victory but rode their luck as the pressure mounted towards the interval, Brett Emerton shaking off Danny Murphy and delightfully curling a chip against the far post.
Their own attempts to establish some fluency were not helped by poor tackles in quick succession on Jimmy Bullard by Andrews and Emerton, both of whom were booked.
But they still threatened on the break through three off-target headers by Bobby Zamora, the second of them a particularly presentable chance from Bullard's measured free-kick.
The pitting of wits on the touchline between Ince and his former Inter Milan manager Roy Hodgson had been billed as a meeting of old friends.
The exchanges on the pitch continued to be less convivial, though, as John Pantsil administered and then received some heavy treatment before playing in Johnson for a good chance from which the former Everton forward, on his right foot and at an angle, was again brilliantly denied by Robinson.
"They were two world-class saves and I think Robbo is still the best keeper in this League," Ince added.
More satisfaction came the manager's way when Villanueva, given a warm reception, exchanged passes with Andrews, only to fire off target, before flashing a shot inches past the far post in stoppage time.
"We were looking pretty good value for a draw and feel our performance justified one," said Hodgson about his fruitless second visit back to the club he left a decade ago. He added: "It was a very even game."Reuse content