AS JAN Poortvliet picks the bones out of Saints' opening day defeat he will find plenty of positives - and a few negatives as well.

Put simply, on the balance of play Saints deserved something from the game. On the balance of chances they did not.

Opening day fixtures are always a curious beast, you never quite know how teams will start, nobody has any form so pretty much anything can happen.

Saints were hoping to, and needing to, lay down a marker.

For Poortvliet's young side confidence is absolutely vital.

They need to believe in themselves and for the fans to believe in them as well.

If that happens then they have a far greater chance of being successful than if it doesn't, but they need performances and results for it to grow.

There were certainly plenty of encouraging points at Cardiff and some of our pre-season questions were answered.

There has always been the theory that these slight youngsters might get physically crushed by some of the great beasts that dwell in the Championship.

Well, Cardiff have some big boys and a few that aren't afraid to put their foot in but Saints never backed down, never gave an inch and stood up to that side of the battle.

One question that remains unanswered, however, is where the goals are coming from.

Though Saints did enjoy plenty of the match, they struggled to create a chance. In fact the only clear one they did have was for the goal.

Cardiff on the other hand, no better in general play than Saints, were working Kelvin Davis on a fairly regular basis.

That need for creativity to cut teams open is paramount.

Poortvliet clearly believes he has the players at his disposal to do it but he needs to get them to believe it too.

There were occasions when you feel as if Saints were trying to score the perfect goal, trying to take that extra, unnecessary touch, trying to walk the ball in.

The reason for that in most cases is not a lack of skill or ability but a lack of confidence.

Players subconsciously don't want to make a glaring mistake, to be the man who gets it wrong, so you take an extra touch just to be sure.

Invariably the chance goes begging.

At the back Saints were fairly solid, though there is an all too familiar complaint.

To give your opponents three free headers from set-pieces in one match is asking for trouble and it was no surprise one ended up in the net.

But overall Saints should be satisfied and the players should take heart because they proved they can compete.

Saints had the better of the opening 20 minutes or so, moving the ball around nicely on a slick surface.

Michael Svensson headed over a difficult half chance from Morgan Schneiderlin's cross early on while Simon Gillett drove a free-kick played in his direction after a backpass into the wall.

But after that Cardiff started to get on top and in the end a goal felt inevitable.

Davis made good saves from Steve Thompson, twice, Ross McCormack, who also fired narrowly wide, and was off his line quickly to keep out Gavin Rae as he burst through.

But on 41 minutes there was nothing he could do as Saints failed to clear a ball into their area leaving Thompson with time to measure a shot into the bottom corner.

Saints didn't feel sorry for themselves and when many may have expected the youngsters to fold they showed great resilience to draw level just before the break.

A terrific move culminated in Andrew Surman getting to the byline and playing the ball into the six yard box for David McGoldrick to get across the front of his marker and flick home.

The second half was a quieter affair.

Davis made a brilliant save at point blank range from Roger Johnson from a corner while Glenn Loovens somehow steered wide from the same source.

Saints had a whipped free-kick that Svensson couldn't quite reach before the winner came just into injury time.

Again it was a set-piece, this time cheaply conceded on the right despite Saints' protests over the build-up, Johnson rising above Svensson to head home with Davis so nearly keeping it out.

It was a tough one for Saints to take, but at least we now know they can compete. It will be interesting to see how they do when every last player believes it too.