As Joao Gomes struck the 88th-minute dagger, a father and son marched with purpose towards Nathan Jones and the Southampton dugout.
Freddie, and his dad Ian, were holding a giant P45, conveniently filled in for Jones. In the ‘total pay during employment’ section it read: ‘£TOO MUCH’.
Security got involved, acting as a blockade, as Jones stood motionless in his technical area. Boos rang round before cheers greeted Freddie and his dad as they were escorted out. Gallows humour on a day which looks to have left Jones with nowhere left to turn.
‘I have no idea,’ came the reply when asked if this was his final game in charge. He knows he is a man on the brink. Fans have made their feelings clear – now it’s up to Rasmus Ankersen and the club’s board.
‘Nathan Jones, get out of our club,’ sang the Southampton fans. And not a small minority. This was loud – and from across the entire ground. Make that one win from eight league games now.
Southampton manager Nathan Jones was told to ‘get out of the club’ by Saints supporters
Joao Gomes scored late to rescue a valuable three points for Wolves on the south coast
‘You’re getting sacked in the morning,’ goaded the away fans. Those of a Southampton persuasion were joining in.
Jones, a manager who routinely demands his players go round clapping every corner of the ground, rushed down the tunnel. His coaching staff stood stoically inside the technical area.
‘I’ve never done that in my life before in 390 games,’ Jones said. ‘But I’m not sure me going around clapping would have gone down well.’
He’s right, there’d have been a mutiny, and not just for the fan that turned up in full clown fancy dress, fit with a Jones mask.
This was supposed to be a day of firsts. Full debuts for Kamaldeen Sulemana and Paul Onuachu. A first Premier League start for Carlos Alcaraz. And, if you believe him, the first time Southampton would actually play Jones’ football.
Southampton opened the scoring with an early goal scored by Argentinian striker Carlos Alcaraz (middle left)
No more compromises; no more pandering to players; Jones was doing it his way – and only his way – he said after a 3-0 shellacking against Brentford.
For 70 minutes the Welshman got that. 1-0 up, Alcaraz with his first Premier League goal, Wolves down to 10 men and Southampton flooding forward at will.
But no team in England’s top four leagues is worse at home than Southampton this season and when Jan Bednarek clumsily walked the ball into his own net in the 72nd minute, the boos directed at Jones were inevitable. Worse was to come, too. Same old, same old.
In the matochday programme Jones, who made four changes, called for unity. By the end this had gone from a day of firsts to a day that Southampton fans have come to glumly expect week after week. Defeat. Again.
Mario Lemina was shown red for a second bookable offence
Belief has been in short supply, but confidence was oozing through this side when Alcaraz, one of five January recruits, hammered in – with the help of the post.
As his coaches leapt in celebration, Jones dropped to his knees for a matter of seconds to soak it up. It was the first time his side had scored the first goal in a Premier League match since he arrived.
And things would improve further when referee Jarred Gillet sent Mario Lemina off before the half hour for dissent. Not that Jones saw it as much of an advantage.
‘I didn’t want them to go down to 10 men because you are on a hiding to nothing,’ he said. ‘It sounds weird to say, because you should beat 10 men if you have 11 but we didn’t and we looked nervous at times.’
By this point Wolves’ heads were spinning. Rayan Ait-Nouri was next in the book, joining Lemina, and Nelson Semedo, and Lopetegui’s blood pressure was all the worse for it.
Southampton defender Jan Bednarek (left) scored an own goal to level the match
Bednarek (right) turned a scuffed shot from Adama Traore (middle) into his own net
Gomes struck with a sweet shot in the 87th minute to clinch a stunning victory for the visitors
Wolves’ late winner means his position as Southampton boss will come under its biggest scrutiny yet
The issue was the second goal never came for Southampton. They should have had it when Sulemena raced through one-on-one in the second half, only for Jose Sa to read the shimmy and brilliantly palm it away.
From there Lopetegui raided his bench and it was two substitutes that forced the equaliser. Diego Costa was first to have a stab inside the six-yard box, then Adama Traore and in the end Bednarek put them out of their misery.
And from there it was Wolves trying to force the issue.
Reward came two minutes from time when Gomes hammered in to the delight of the away fans behind the goal.
Jones headed straight down the tunnel as home fans waved him off. Will they see him at Chelsea? The Welshman may have no idea – but you sense he won’t be waiting long for the answer.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Southampton (3-5-2): Bazunu 6; Bree 6 (Edozie 80), Maitland-Niles 6.5, Bednarek 4.5, Salisu 5, Perraud 5 (Lyanco 74); Lavia 6 (S Armstrong 89), Alcarez 6.5 (Aribo 79), Ward-Prowse 6; Sulemana 7, Onuachu 6 (Adams 74)
Subs not used: Caballero, A Armstrong, Mara, Walcott
Goal: Alcaraz (24)
Booked: Ward-Prowse, Maitland-Niles
Manager: Nathan Jones 5
Wolves (4-2-3-1): Sa 7; Ait-Nouri 5 (Bueno 46, 5), Dawson 6, Kilman 5, Semedo 6 (Jonny 84); Neves 7, Lemina 3; Nunes 6 (Gomes 70, 7), Moutinho 5 (Traore 46, 6), Sarabia 6; Cunha 5 (Costa 59, 6)
Subs not used: Bentley, Collins, Neto, Jimenez
Goal: Bednarek OG (72), Gomes (87)
Booked: Lemina, Semedo, Ait-Nouri
Sent off: Lemina
Manager: Julen Lopetegui 7
Referee: Jarred Gillett 6
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