Ralph Hasenhuttl’s first game as Saints manager ended in a 1-0 defeat at relegation rivals Cardiff.

Callum Paterson’s goal on 74 minutes after a terrible error from Jannik Vestergaard settled an often scrappy match played in wet and windy conditions.

The result saw Saints slip to second from bottom and underlined the size of the job Hasenhuttl has on his hands.

Hasenhuttl put his stamp on things before kick-off by making six changes to the team with Oriol Romeu recalled into a sitting role in front of the back four in a very fluid formation that was hard to define but often resembled a 4-1-2-2-1.

Saints were straight on the front foot and created a half chance after just two minutes as Matt Targett’s low cross from the left was flicked wide of the far post from a difficult angle by Charlie Austin.

The striker produced another instinctive finish three minutes later, this time from Jannik Vestergaard’s free kick, but again it wasn’t quite on target.

Cardiff had a much better opportunity on ten minutes as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing diverted a left wing cross back to Harry Arter but his shot from eight yards out was not cleanly struck and Alex McCarthy made the save.

Saints were riding their luck as they got caught twice on the ball but both times Cardiff couldn’t quite take advantage.

McCarthy was forced into another stop, this time at his near post from Josh Murphy’s driven shot, and stood firm to beat the ball behind.

Up the other end, Austin’s header from Targett’s free kick was comfortably taken by Neil Etheridge.

Saints had a big let off on 25 minutes as Jan Bednarek was caught on the ball by Callum Paterson and Murphy broke through but Yan Valery did just enough to hold him up and McCarthy was able to block at his feet.

It was Cardiff who were left thanking the woodwork for keeping them level as Paterson’s defensive header from Targett’s corner looped up onto the bar with Mario Lemina blazing over the rebound.

Both sides were struggling for fluency in the blustery conditions but it was Cardiff who ended the first half the stronger with McCarthy producing an excellent save to turn away Mendez-Laing’s shot from the edge of the area.

Valery had endured a torrid time up against Murphy and Hasenhuttl made a decisive move by replacing him at the break with Jack Stephens.

Mendez-Laing was the first to get a shot off in the second period as he cut in from the right but the midfielder missed the target.

Saints appealed for a penalty on the hour mark as Stuart Armstrong went down in the area under the challenge of Victor Camarasa but referee Jon Moss waved away the appeals.

The wet and windy conditions were playing a significant role in proceedings and neither side was able to fully take control but it was certainly a much improved display from Saints who were looking the more likely with their extra quality.

However, it was Cardiff who took the lead on 74 minutes in a horror moment for Vestergaard.

Camarasa showed great bravery to win a challenge in the middle of the pitch and the ball went back towards Vestergaard.

His attempted back pass to McCarthy was woefully short and Paterson nipped in to steal it, held off the centre half and scuffed a finish past McCarthy for 1-0.

Cardiff should have wrapped the game up with nine minutes remaining as Morrison had a free header eight yards out from Arter’s cross but he put it wide.

Saints had another penalty appeal turned down by referee Jon Moss when Nathan Redmond went down in the box as they tried to push forward in search of an equaliser.

However, they weren’t able to create a chance and Hasenhuttl’s first game ended in a disappointing loss.