Under new management, Fulham opened their 2010/11 Barclays Premier League campaign with a trip to Bolton’s Reebok Stadium, where they had won just once in their last six visits.
The hosts were quick out of the blocks, but Fulham looked controlled and confident with the now England-capped Bobby Zamora showing some promising early touches.
All eyes were unquestionably on the Whites, as a new chapter opened in their long history. Hughes named a more than familiar line-up however, with the only changes to the side that played the majority of last season seeing Paul Konchesky and Mark Schwarzer replaced by Stephen Kelly and David Stockdale.
The latter, making just his second league appearance and fourth in total for the Whites, looked at home in the Fulham goal – making one routine stop from a Davies header, before catching the eye with a super save from Martin Petrov’s strike from distance.
The 24-year-old also saw off the aerial threat Davies, before diving bravely at the feet of Elmander.
With half an hour gone, the young ‘keeper thwarted Bolton and Elmander again, making a decent save from the Swedish striker’s curled strike.
At the other end, Zamora went close with a clever lofted effort, had it been a few inches lower, Fulham would have been in front. Simon Davies flashed a volley wide, while captain Danny Murphy shot narrowly wide from Zoltan Gera’s lovely first-time pass.
With the score level at half-time, both teams could well have had a breakthrough; Bolton may have seen more of the chances, yet Fulham looked the better in possession.
Bolton again made a lively start to the half, and within minutes Stockdale again denied the home side’s attack, with the young stopper tipping Elmander's arching strike over the bar.
The home crowd bellowed for a penalty when Chung-yong Lee went down under a challenge from Murphy, but referee Stuart Attwell was spot on with his decision; with our skipper showing his vast experience to pick the pocket of the South Korea international with an expert intervention.
At the other end, Gera offered a moment of inspiration, however his ambitious overhead kick deflected off the back of Gary Cahill and out for a corner.
History and form certainly suggested the Whites would get their goal, with Fulham scoring one goal in each of their last four opening-day games. Barclays Premier League statistics, released this week, also revealed Fulham scored 69 per cent of their goals last season in the second-half - which was the highest proportion in the top-flight.
Another fantastic stop from Stockdale denied the home side further, with Elmander kept out again following a one-on-one with the Yorkshire-born ‘keeper. Stocko was having one hell of a game.
Into the last 20 minutes, and with a very vocal travelling Fulham faithful behind them, the Whites began to push forward with more urgency, Zamora fired wide from the edge of the box and Gera's effort was blocked by the boot of Cahill.
An exciting spell followed with Stuart Holden rattling the foot of one of the Fulham posts from distance, while Murphy created space for Clint Dempsey to force a decent save from Jaaskelainen.
Dickson Etuhu was next to test the Finnish ‘keeper, lashing Murphy’s inviting pass at goal, while a break from Zamora was unfortunately checked by former Fulham defender Zat Knight.
With the momentum, Zamora then found Murphy waiting with the goal in sight, but the captain’s strike was blocked by Gretar Steinsson and away for a corner. The resulting delivery from Davies found Zamora at the back post, and his centred header allowed Aaron Hughes to direct at goal from which Jaaskelainen claimed comfortably.
Fulham certainly finished the game in the ascendency, with Damien Duff, Davies and Murphy all teasing balls into the box, however Bolton maintained their resilience.
It was not the win we had all hoped for, but Hughes will be happy; his side defended solidly, tackled intelligently and pressed and harried until the end. Chances were certainly created, and from that he has plenty to take.