Paul Lambert praised his Aston Villa players despite the club suffering a 2-1 defeat against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
Villa were condemned to a third straight loss on Saturday as goals from Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch sandwiched Libor Kozak's equaliser.
Yet Lambert took heart from an improved display, which saw the visitors enjoy the better of proceedings for much of the first half.
"I never thought we deserved to lose that one," said Lambert. "The last two performances - against Fulham and Manchester United - we never deserved anything, but that one we deserved something from.
"We got ourselves right back into the game, in really strong conditions - the wind was really strong.
"You couldn't fault the lads for their effort or the way we started. I thought we were the better team in the first half. We looked threatening. We looked like our old selves.
"We lost a goal early in the second half. We got a good goal back with Libor. I'm disappointed to lose but that was better from us."
Five Villa players were booked, including Fabian Delph for a reckless challenge on Crouch, but Lambert is adamant his side is not a dirty one.
"That's part of the game," said the former Scotland midfielder. "We're not going to go out there and be a soft touch - that's not the game. We go out to try and win.
"Their enthusiasm will sometimes take them into [challenges], but I’d argue with anyone who says we're a kicking side."
Lambert is now hoping Villa, who sit 13th, can build on their showing at Stoke when hosting Crystal Palace and Swansea next week.
"If you look at the middle of the table, there's nothing in it. We've got Palace and Swansea coming up - two hard games - but if we play like that, I'll be more than happy," he added.
"If we can get a break we'll get the win. I don't think we deserved to lose [against Stoke]."