Barely a couple of months into his tenure as Southampton manager Nathan Jones must be wondering whether time is already running out. Saints’ sixth successive Premier League defeat – at the hands of their relegation rivals Nottingham Forest, who recorded their landmark first away win of the campaign thanks to Taiwo Awoniyi’s first-half goal – left Southampton four points adrift at the foot of the table and staring down the barrel of relegation.
It was no less than Steve Cooper’s side deserved after a committed display that restricted their opponents to only a handful of opportunities on a dismal night for the home supporters. But while the victory Forest propelled out of the bottom three as they attempt to consolidate after last season’s promotion, Southampton – having spent the last decade in the top flight – can only fear the worst on this evidence as their manager left the field to chants of: “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
Having admitted this week that it was time for his players to turn some of the progress Jones believes they have made since his appointment into points, this was hardly the kind of performance to convince the doubters as Southampton once again proved their own worst enemies. The mistake from Lyanco that led to Awoniyi’s winner was easily avoidable and Jones was left bemused by his side’s inability to respond.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” was the cry from the home support as Nathan Jones marched out on to the sodden turf at St Mary’s and applauded all four stands.
Four Premier League games into the Southampton manager’s tenure and, after tonight’s 1-0 loss against Nottingham Forest — a fourth consecutive defeat — there is already a sense that Jones’s time on the south coast may be beginning to unravel.
When asked whether the reaction from supporters was a concern, he was typically bullish.
“Not really,” the former Luton Town manager, who replaced Ralph Hasenhuttl at the start of November, said.
“It doesn’t concern me. It surprises me a little, but that’s their prerogative. When you’ve come from where I’ve come from, getting an opportunity [in the Premier League], I understand there’s scepticism. For me, as a manager, I have to be thick-skinned.”
Nathan Jones said he “takes sole responsibility for the results” at Southampton with the club having lost all four of their Premier League matches since he replaced Ralph Hasenhüttl.
Jones was roundly booed by all corners of St Mary’s Stadium as he applauded supporters at the final whistle after Nottingham Forest recorded their first away win of the season by virtue of Taiwo Awoniyi’s first-half goal, their first away from the City Ground since August.
The result leaves Southampton rooted to the foot of the league whilst Steve Cooper’s side climbed out of the relegation zone.
“I can’t pre-empt what fans are going to do, that’s entirely up to them,” said Jones of the toxic atmosphere inside St Mary’s. “It doesn’t concern me. It surprises me a little but that’s their prerogative. We need everyone and that includes fans. I understand their frustrations but that’s not adding any positivity.”
If you listened carefully over the cacophony of boos and jeers at St Mary’s, one could hear a delirious and rapturous away end toasting to their first Premier League away win since May 1999.
They’ve had little to cheer about on the road since that glorious day in May at Wembley but the south-coast sea breeze carried and amplified their jubilation as Taiwo Awoniyi’s first-half strike secured a first away win of the season and lifted Steve Cooper’s side out of the relegation zone.
It came at the expense of Southampton, rock bottom and yet to pick up a point under Nathan Jones. ‘Sacked in the morning,’ sang the away end at Jones. He will be given time but tonight’s disjointed performance made Saints’ Premier League status look in terminal danger after an 11-year stint in the top flight.
Nathan Jones admitted he was “surprised” at Southampton fan’s ferocious reaction after suffering a fourth straight Premier League loss since replacing Ralph Hasenhuttl.
St Mary’s turned toxic after a sixth straight Premier League defeat – with Nottingham Forest winning a relegation six-pointer. Jones was booed while attempting to applaud the Southampton fans after becoming the second Saints manager to lose his first four Premier League matches in charge.
“It surprises me but it’s their prerogative,” Jones said. “Especially where I’ve come from, I can understand why they’re sceptical. You have to show real characteristics when you come through this. I’m from the Welsh mining community. Everything I’ve done in my life is a challenge. I’ve never gone into a place like I left at Luton where everything is on a high and on the up.
There has never been a more cutting chant than when Forest fans serenaded St Mary’s with “how s*** must you be we’re winning away”.
It was written in the stars for the toxic waste-land – which Nathan Jones said in his press conference that he feared Southampton would turn into – to be where Forest picked up their first league win on the road this term.
Hero Taiwo Awoniyi must have been licking his lips when he rocked up on the south coast to hit his side’s first away goal in seven matches.
The last time they scored in the Prem on their travels was at Everton in August.
More importantly, the precious points catapulted Steve Cooper’s side out of the relegation zone and into 15th on 17 points.