Boo boys are on song as Saints stumble to defeat

Southampton 1 Bolton Wanderers 2
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The Independent Football

Southampton fans turned on chairman Rupert Lowe as Southampton suffered a crushing home defeat just two days after manager Paul Sturrock left the club by "mutual consent" following reports that player-power forced him out.

Lowe, who has dispensed with seven managers in seven years, has since taken on "wider duties" believed to be concerned with running the football side of the club while promoting reserve-team boss Steve Wigley to head coach.

Southampton were a bundle of nerves, gifting Henrik Pedersen and Jay-Jay Okocha comic-book goals in the opening 27 minutes and only made a real fight of it after substitute Peter Crouch, a £2.5million capture from Aston Villa, nudged Paul Telfer's cross over the line in a crowded six-yard box.

By then the home fans had begun roaring abuse at Lowe - the man who wanted to bring back Glenn Hoddle for a second managerial spell last season and their dissent was accompanied by chants of "sack the board."

Southampton fought to the finish and might have rescued a point after Crouch pulled a goal back - his first for the club.

In four minutes of stoppage time, Ricardo Gardner did well to head away Fabrice Fernandes' curled cross before Claus Lundekvam's header dropped wide of a gapping goal after he and Kevin Phillips had both leapt for the Frenchman's ball in.

In the end, though, Saints paid for dismal defending in the early stages of a game Bolton dominated for long periods with superior passing and technique.

Southampton tried to spring an offside trap that looked embedded with rust and either of the unmarked Kevin Davies or Henrik Pedersen could have planted Nicky Hunt's lofted cross past Antti Niemi in the seventh minute, the Dane finally doing so.

Before that Bolton had split the Saints defence wide open with another run and cross by the lanky Hunt but just as former Southampton striker Davies was about to drive it home, Stelios Giannakopoulos - the midfielder accused by boss Sam Allardyce of acting like a Greek God since his Euro 2004 triumph - jumped into the equation, lost control of the ball and the chance was lost. But just as Southampton were establishing a foothold in the game, they shot themselves in the foot again, Danny Higginbotham conceding a totally unnecessary penalty from which Okocha doubled Bolton's lead in the 26th minute.

The Southampton centre-back had plenty of time to clear but a bad touch panicked him and as Stelios came in with a challenge he recklessly brought him down.

Referee Steve Dunn unhesitatingly pointed to the spot and the Nigerian calmly despatched his third goal of the season.

Beattie, Phillips and Lundekvam all hit hopeful efforts at the Bolton goal as Saints started to climb the mountain of a 2-0 deficit, but they nearly conceded a third when Okocha's 25-yard free-kick was inches wide with a deflection on 32 minutes.

Then a superb flick by Davies from Gardner's pass sent Pedersen racing down the left, holding off Paul Telfer and striking a shot into the side-netting in the best move of the match so far on 37 minutes.

Bolton contained the inevitable Southampton rush, restricting them to long-range but largely impotent pot-shots as an air of gloom settled over St Mary's.

There appeared to be nothing more in the Southampton locker after the break and they could have fallen further behind but for Graeme Le Saux's life-saving last-ditch tackle on Davies and a header by Tunisian free transfer Radhi Jaidi which flew just over the bar.

Jaidi enjoyed a comfortable debut at the back as Bolton refound the form that battered Charlton 4-1 on the opening day but it became hectic at the end as Saints made a final push to save some dignity.

Southampton (4-4-2): Niemi; Le Saux, Lundekvam, Higginbotham, Telfer; Svensson, Prutton, Delap (Crouch, 67), Fernandes; Beattie, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Folly, Damme, Ormerod.

Bolton (4-1-4-1) Jaaskelainen; Gardner, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Hunt; Campo; Speed, Okocha, Giannakopoulos (Nolan, 78), Pedersen (Hierro, 89); Davies (Ferdinand, 90). Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Hierro, Haim

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol)