Dreamy summer days by the river. Fulham duly made it three wins on the trot with a free-flowing performance that at the very least backed up their last glorious victory in the Premier League. Bolton are no Arsenal – indeed, on this negative showing it is tricky to think of a more stark footballing contrast – but they are usually hard to beat.
Fulham found it all rather straightforward, regardless of something resembling a late fightback from Bolton. If it is possible to maintain the momentum of a game played three weeks ago – the internationals and the postponed clash with Manchester United gave them their unwanted break – then Roy Hodgson's side managed it. Of course there is a long way to go before verdict time, but the manager should already be applauded for transforming a bunch of lumpers into a slick group of passers. And in Andrew Johnson and his other recent signing Bobby Zamora, there could be a partnership potent enough to capitalise on this smooth style.
The latter was probably man of the match – Zamora's goal was a peach – although Hodgson was just as pleased with the performance of his debutant. "The chairman has been anxious to see him play after his investment and I've had a job calming him and Andy down," said Hodgson. Mohammed Al Fayed must already believe it was £10.5m well spent.
After his thigh injury, Johnson was supposed to need the run-out but one thing he did not run out of in his 74 minutes was gas. He gave Bolton's static defensive pairing of Danny Shittu and Andrew O'Brien a torrid afternoon, although those two could hardly have been held up to blame as the chief culrpits. Gary Megson's five-man midfield was over-run and up front the lively Kevin Davies was only presented with the very odd opening.
It could have and should have been more comfortable; the Cottagers' industry certainly warranted it. Jimmy Bullard had the confidence of an England squad player, while Zoltan Gera and Simon Davies were constantly probing down the flanks. Yet it was a cross from the inspirational Zamora in the 15th minute which resulted in the place rocking.
The cross was initially headed away by Jlloyd Samuel, but only to the feet of Gera. The Hungarian's finish from the edge of the area was clinical; Zamora's conversion from the same spot 25 minutes was magical.
Saying that, it owed a lot to mannequin act of Shittu and Gavin McCann who stayed rooted to the turf as Zamora turned inside. He took a touch, drifted across the line of the box before delivering a sweet strike inside Jaaskelainen's left-hand post. That should have triggered floodgates but after Gera had headed Davies's cross against the cross bar near the hour mark and Johnson had failed to find net with another cute Davies ball just after, the visitors came on strong.
Kevin Noland overdid it when smashing down Bullard but he probably figured they would get nothing for standing off. This was Bolton's desperate play for a point. The route may have been crude, Jaaskelainen booting a free-kick 60 metres into the area, where Davies bundled it in, but it had the desired effect.
With eight minutes left, cue a bit of Fulham uncertainty. Mustapha Riga came close, but not close enough and the home side deservedly held out. "It would have been harsh on Fulham if they hadn't have," admitted the Bolton manager, Gary Megson. Indeed, with a friendly-looking fixture list stretching before them, that includes none of the top four until the end of November, Fulham's progress up the table may gather yet more speed.Reuse content