Woodhouse United suffered another Rochdale Sunday League defeat but boss Marc Walters will go into the festive break in a much happier frame of mind.
A 3-1 Division One defeat away to third-placed Duke of Wellington was no disgrace for a side crushed 8-0 by leaders Broadway Celtic the previous week.
Walters had questioned the commitment of some of his players after the Celtic defeat but a strengthened side put up a much bolder show in their final game of the year.
“It was a lot better performance,” said the manager.
He said Tom Holroyd had returned to boost the defence and spirit had been much improved.
“We were unlucky really.
“Over the 90 minutes we were probably the better team.
“They had four shots and scored with three of them.”
Duke got the only goal of the first half when the ball landed at the feet of a striker from a mis-kick, the visitors appealing in vain for offside.
Joe Whitham had a chance to equalise when he went through one-on-one with the keeper, who made a double save.
The home side scrambled a second 10 minutes after the break when Holroyd should perhaps have cleared but a Whitham penalty made it 2-1.
United attacked for much of the last 20 to 25 minutes but their hosts clinched victory on the break.
Walters added: “It was definitely a big improvement - there was a lot more effort.”
He hopes the players will get together for some fitness work before a tough return to action at high-riding FC Bernard, who have already beaten them 8-0 at home, on January 6.