Matthew Bates believes Hartlepool United more than matched promotion favourites Salford City despite a three-goal defeat.
And the Pools boss thinks two controversial calls from referee Marc Edwards and his officials decided the fate of last night’s clash.
On the evening three second-half strikes in the space of 10 minutes from Danny Lloyd, Adam Rooney and Tom Walker ensured Pools left the north west empty-handed.
But Bates feels his side were hard done to twice at the Peninsula Stadium.
“He (Mark Kitching) is convinced (the ball went out). The lad who has crossed it is also convinced,” said Bates about an incident in the run up to the opener.
“Not only that the linesman has told me, when he was going past the dugouts, that he thought it was a penalty on Marcus Dinanga (after the striker appeared to be shoved in the back in the area).
“I have no idea why he did not put his flag across his chest - I am sure he knows the rule.
“He told me he said to the referee it was a penalty but the ref would not give it.”
Bates does concede that despite going toe-to-toe with Salford, his side also came up short defensively.
“It was fine margins,” said Bates.
“At half-time we were right in the game. In the second half we came out really well and had a good spell before they scored.
“But it was poor defensively in the end. It is all fine margins.
“Salford are a good side but we matched them for large spells.
“I thought we acquitted ourselves well on the night.
“It was just one of those days which was decided by a lack of concentration from us.”
Ahead of the weekend visit of Aldershot, Bates added: “It is important that we get over this.
“A defeat to Salford will not define our season, we move on.”