Pepe Mel talked about "happy endings" when he was unveiled as West Bromwich Albion's head coach last week and that choice of words provided a reasonable description of the part-time novelist's first game in charge. After a disappointing start against an Everton side who led through Kevin Mirallas's first-half goal and looked set to secure the victory that would have lifted them back into the top four Albion recovered to pick up a valuable point.
Diego Lugano, making a rare appearance, chose a good night to open his account for the Midlands club. With 15 minutes remaining and Albion looking increasingly desperate, James Morrison created a yard of space where there appeared to be none on the right-hand side of the penalty area and delivered a perfect centre that Lugano, beating Sylvain Distin to the ball at the near post, met with a superb diving header.
Mel clenched his fists and Albion had the point that they arguably deserved on the back of a much improved second-half performance, when the tactical changes and substitutions that the Spaniard made had the desired effect. Everton, who looked so dangerous during an opening half-hour when they opened Albion up with alarming ease, lost their way in the second half and paid a heavy price when Lugano levelled.
Two minutes later Nicolas Anelka left the pitch to a warm ovation from the Albion supporters. Mel named the Frenchman in his starting line-up on the same day that Zoopla, the club's shirt sponsor, announced it would not be seeking to renew its agreement with Albion when it expires at the end of the season because of the fallout from the controversial "quenelle" gesture that the striker made at West Ham last month. Another turbulent 24 hours awaits Anelka, who is expected to be charged by the Football Association on Tuesday.
This result leaves Roberto Martínez's side sixth, one point behind Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, which is no bad position to be in at this stage of the season, although the worry for Everton supporters is that it will end up being remembered as another drawn game that they needed to win. The sight of Seamus Coleman limping off with a hamstring strain is another concern.
Martínez expressed his frustration with the goal his side conceded and the visitors' failure to make the most of their superiority early on but the Everton manager refused to be too despondent about the outcome.
"I thought the first half an hour we looked very dangerous but when you get into that dominant performance you need to get that two-goal cushion," said Martínez, who revealed that a deal has been agreed to sign the Monaco striker Lacina Traoré on loan subject to a work permit being granted.
"Probably the second half we weren't at our best in terms of managing the game well and controlling the ball the way we wanted. The pitch is a difficult pitch for the team in possession. It wasn't just for us, it was for West Brom as well.
"Overall we are disappointed because of conceding a goal in the manner we did, defending a corner we get done trying to hit a quick counter-attack and then we end up in a freak way not being able to stop the cross and you've got the opposing centre-half in the six-yard box, which is something that doesn't happen too often. So for those reasons a little bit disappointed but the reality is that away from home we get another point towards our tally. And we knew the home side, with a new manager, was going to be a difficult game for us to control for 90 minutes."
Mel admitted that Albion, initially set up in a 4-4-2 formation, were far "too open" in the first half. Romelu Lukaku, Bryan Oviedo, James McCarthy, Coleman and Mirallas all had chances to put Everton ahead inside the opening half-hour.
Albion might have hoped they had weathered the storm but Mirallas, gambling on Lukaku beating Jonas Olsson in the air, ran off the back of Lugano and took a touch before planting a low right-foot shot inside Ben Foster's near post in the 41st minute.
Mel replaced the ineffective Matej Vydra with Victor Anichebe at half-time, introduced Youssouf Mulumbu on the hour mark and altered the system to a bold 4-1-3-2. The complexion of the game changed as Albion began to pin Everton back.
Anichebe, who had come close to getting a touch to Anelka's cross in the 55th minute, had a hand in the equaliser when he linked up with Morrison on the Albion right. Despite the close attention of Leighton Baines and McCarthy, Morrison managed to whip in a cross that Lugano met with an emphatic header. "It is a good night, a long day for me, but the end is beautiful," Mel said.