United overcame a disappointing first half to pull level in dramatic style after the break on Saturday afternoon, but it was visitors Salford who had the last say with an excellent finish from Luke Bolton.
Manager Paul Simpson was typically forthright in his review of the game shortly after full-time.
“In the first half we weren’t good enough, but in the second half we gave it a right go,” he said. “Look, I’m massively proud about what this group of players have achieved over the 45 games we’ve played so far.
“I’m disappointed with today, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you can give any team a two-goal start. The character we showed in the second half and the determination we showed to get ourselves level was good.
“Unfortunately we’ve then got to talk about a negative thing where we lose our discipline. Jon Mellish does something that makes the referee make a decision.
“I don’t think it’s a red card, and this is me speaking in the rawness of it all. It looks to me like a very similar situation to the one Louie Barry had his red card rescinded for against Walsall last weekend, but we need to have a look at it.
“Elliot Watt has been very clever, I don’t know why he’s shoved Mels, but I’d rather Mels went down to the floor after that, like Elliot Watt does.
“Instead he turns round and shoves him in his chest, Watt goes down holding his face so the referee has a decision to make. I’ve looked at it and he definitely doesn’t touch his face.
“And I honestly think if Mellish hadn’t have been sent off, we would have got the draw and maybe more because we had the momentum.
“That’s the level of professionalism you have to have to not get drawn into that situation. We’ve shown incredible character to come back in the second half, but we’ve just got to take it on the chin now and move on.”
“You could see from Jon’s reaction that he knew he’d done something, he’d retaliated, but I don’t think it’s a red card, I think it’s a yellow,” he added. “I didn’t think JK’s was a red card last week, so it comes down to the interpretation of the amount of force used.
“I thought the force Mellish used was the same as the force that Watt used, but that’s something we’ll look at this week. We have to just dust ourselves down and make sure we’re ready to go again next Monday.
“I’ve had a look at it quickly, I probably need to look at it again and I need to discuss it with the other staff and get an opinion because it's still all very raw at the moment. My opinion is that we will be appealing against it, but we’ll have a proper look and see.
“If he is suspended he’ll be a big miss if that’s the case. So let's wait and see. We’re already missing JK for two more games. We're just going to have to wait and see.
“He will be a huge loss for us, but we've had many times this season where we've lost players, predominantly through injuries, and others have stepped up to the plate.
“The disappointing thing for me is that over the season, I think our disciplinary record has been outstanding, really, really good.
“They’ve had a level of professionalism and a level of discipline that's been really good, and now it looks horrendous with two red cards in two games, and we need to make sure we keep our heads. We keep our discipline and make sure that we keep 11 players on the pitch.”
Getting back to the subject of the game, he told us: “I’m hugely disappointed we’ve lost the game because I felt if we were right we could have won it.
“It’s taken a change of shape at half time to get ourselves back in it. I thought it was a wonderful free kick from Owen Moxon and a great header from Joe Garner.
“It was good football for Joe to get in behind and get brought down for the penalty then Denno keeps his composure. The third goal is one where, if Mellish is on the pitch, Luke Bolton comes into the area where he is.
“He might still stick it in the far corner, we don’t know. The second goal is a horrendous goal to give away. I don’t know the reasons and I haven’t spoken to Tomas, but I think he has to save that, simple as that.
“They had a bit of quality for the first one, it was sheer pace from Bolton and it’s a great finish from Hendry. In the second half we showed incredible character to keep going and lift the fans.
“The fans were down at half time but we lifted them with our performance, and what an absolute credit to the football club the players are - but also the over 10,000 home fans who turned up. They saw we had a go and I think we need to make sure we have a go straight from the first whistle now.”
Conceding two quickfire goals before the half-hour made it a difficult task for the Blues, and one where character was needed after the break.
“The difficulty is, if somebody has the pace Luke Bolton has then it’s very difficult to stop it,” he explained. “There’s a ball played inside Jack Armer and Bolton has done him for pace, then we didn’t recover well enough to get back to the edge of the box and Hendry has put it away really well.
“The second goal is difficult because they’ve tried to run out towards the right and Hunts has been half and half distracted by it, then Bolton comes through the middle and finishes it. There are disappointing parts, but sometimes you have to accept that pace and quality has done us, and we have to take that on the chin on this occasion.”
“We did react and the second half was good,” he continued. “But we can’t give anybody a two-goal start. We did it against Stockport, then showed great character to come back, and we’ve done it again, but the unprofessionalism has cost us.
“We just have to go again now. We’re back again on Monday morning after the awards night on Sunday, and we’ll start the preparation for Sutton. It’s now a game we need to go and win, I know everybody is saying we’re in the play-offs but we’re not, it’s not guaranteed.
“If there’s an eight-goal swing, which everybody might say won’t happen, but you look at Northampton last year in their last game of the season, so we cannot take anything for granted. We have to make sure we go to Sutton and go to win the game.”
There was what appeared to be bad news for midfielder Jamie Devitt when he signalled to the bench that he needed treatment, shortly before leaving the pitch with a suspected hamstring injury.
“It’s horrible for him, I don’t know which leg it was but it was when he made the run down into the corner,” the gaffer said. “He knew it was gone, he wanted to stay on but there was no point, we had to finish the game with nine men.
“He would have been a liability being out there but for his own health and safety it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. We’ve taken a few knocks, but we’ve shown some real spirit in the second half and that’s what we’ll need next week.
“It does look like it’s his hamstring and it’s been the story of his season unfortunately, story of his last couple of seasons, if we’re going to be honest.
"That’s probably the reason why, when everyone’s clamouring for Jamie Devitt to be starting, we have to take those things into account that we weren’t confident he would start a game and get 60-70 minutes.
“That’s probably him finished for the season. And I'm gutted for Dev because he is a top, top character to have around. Everybody could see how gutted he was when he went off and we’ve just got to look after him now.”