Steve Evans left Fulham “disappointed but proud” last night and insisted again that he could thrive in his job as Leeds United head coach after starting his reign with a 1-1 draw.
The 52-year-old Scot inspired an immediate improvement at Craven Cottage, 48 hours after taking charge of United, and was denied a maiden win by Fulham goalkeeper Joe Lewis and two contentious penalty decisions. Evans became owner Massimo Cellino’s sixth head coach in 18 months on Monday after three straight defeats spelled the end of Uwe Rosler’s short reign and he delivered on his promise that Leeds would “have a go” after a recent loss of form.
Chris Wood’s 64th-minute penalty – his fifth goal of the season – cancelled out a first-half strike from Moussa Dembele but Stuart Dallas and Mirco Antenucci saw late efforts saved by Lewis and Fulham escaped two other penalty claims following apparent handball by Dan Burn and a dubious challenge on Tom Adeyemi.
Evans, who took warm applause from an away crowd of 4,000 at full-time, said: “We go away disappointed with the result but very proud with how we’ve worked.
“We were bombing forward trying to get the winner.
“They scored the first time they’re in our box but I asked the players to be big characters at half-time.
“I said ‘I don’t care if Fulham score a second goal if we play with that spirit.’ If we get that spirit again we’ll be fine.
“Their goalkeeper is perhaps the difference and I’m not going to say we deserved two other penalties. But I’ve looked at them and we should have had two other penalties.”
Elland Road has been graveyard for head coaches in Cellino’s controversial spell as owner and Evans has taken charge at a time when the Italian is facing another ownership ban.
“Every game I’m manager of Leeds United, it’s fantastic,” Evans said. “It’s very humbling and I believe I can bring relative success to this club.”
He added: “The one thing I’ve learned from my president – and this is only my view, you guys have a different one maybe – is that he doesn’t want to be changing coaches. But if you’re putting money in you have to accept that you want to win.”
Asked if he thought the players had turned a corner, Evans said: “I think they see a corner turned when Steve Evans walks in. You have to be straight with players.
“There’s not a player that we don’t think has a right to be in that dressing room but they perhaps have to apply themselves a bit differently.”