Walking to the Cottage for its first Europa League 'proper' game on Thursday night was the first time this year that things really felt autumnal. The sky is starting to darken at 7pm now and the pavements looking untidier and tidier at the same time with piles of crisp leaves hiding the piles of crisp packets through Hammersmith. The temperature has also dipped slightly so I wore my over-large white hoody coat, which I didn't quite need but was pleased to have.
As I got into the ground, the crowd at the back of the Hammy End were enthusiastic and noisy which I liked as I sat with around five H7 rows to myself and read the special programme. Then I realised there was another noise. Almost like a buzzing in the back of my head. Looking up it dawned on me that the away fans in the JH stand were making some kind of noise which didn't quite register on my ears but was annoying none the less. They soon stopped it and made more typical noises throughout the game, but it was a good pre-match warm up for both fans.
It didn't appear that the home team had such good preparation though, as busy Basel were all over the pitch and controlling the game. Indeed they should have been up at half time had one of their players not managed to blast the ball over the bar from about eight yards. In truth, the game was not holding my attention in what had been a long week and it was particularly disappointing to see some of the new players for the first time. Stephen Kelly appears to have Glen Johnson disease, handy enough going forward, but clumsy looking when defending. Bjorne Helge Riise was tidy but unexciting. Jonathan Greening seemed to be a bad facsimile of Danny Murphy - doing similar things, but worse. More than once when he was involved, the crowd murmured 'Jesus' and I'm not entirely sure it was down to his similarity to the popular image of the son of god or his general sloppy play.
This being a Woy Hodgson side there were no substitutions at half time and little changed until the crowd moaned a little when Dempsey misplaced a pass. Somehow the ball came back to him almost immediately and he hit a frustrated almost petulant shot from 30 yards which almost worried the keeper, but at least it meant the home side had had a shot in anger.
A couple minutes later and Fulham were ahead. They played their first bit of football all night with a flowing move which was dispatched into the back of the net by the increasingly prolific Danny Murphy. And that was that. Basel huffed and puffed, but couldn't get the equaliser they probably deserved.
It was a night to forget for Fulham's front two. Bobby Zamora had another one of those games where he would do something sublime and immediately follow it up with something ridiculous to spoil everything, which didn't help his already fractious relationship with the Craven Cottage faithful. Meanwhile, apart from finding it impossible to read the few flick ons that Zamora won, Andrew Johnson appears to have lost all his pace. He is no longer lightening, merely fast and as many defenders are also fast, AJ needs a couple more strings to his bow if he is going to break a dozen goals this year.
In a way, it was the antithesis of the Arsenal game - didn't play particularly well, but won 1-0 and took the three points.
Attendance: Me and Jarrod.