A game to forget but one which cannot be forgotten
Lincoln City 4-0 MK Dons
Some games you just want to forget - the 4-0 defeat at Lincoln City is one of those. Forgetting it though would defeat the object.
The bare-bones of it are this: Dons were OK for 45 minutes, absent for 15 minutes, downtrodden for 10 minutes and then desperate for the end after that. There were mistakes, there were poor decisions made, there were warning signs before the goals, there were precious few opportunities to score or even test the keeper - it was a terrible second half and a bad overall game for Russell Martin's side.
Dons' position in League One (they stayed 14th) is befitting of where they are in 'the process' which Martin often cites. Picking up 15 wins, 16 losses and 10 draws is about as midtable as you could ask for in 41 games. Undoubtedly it's an improvement on the team which narrowly avoided the drop last season, but nowhere near where some expect or indeed demand them to be fighting next season.
"We're in a position where we have to learn from it," said the manager afterwards. "We're not fighting to get promoted like they are or fighting to stay in the league. We're fighting to improve, we're fighting to make people better, to learn and to make sure it doesn't happen next season. We've made huge strides this season.
"I won't come out here and be really angry, I'm sure I'll get criticised for that. But I won't get caught up in emotion about a 15 minute period in a game."
There is still plenty of work to be done before Dons are the finished article, and these remaining five games should be used to try to do that. They need to make fewer mistakes, make better decisions on the ball, recognise dangerous situations, create more clear-cut chances and be more clinical when they do. It sounds obvious, it's the aim of football essentially, but too often this season it is where Dons have fallen down.
On occasion, they have ticked the right boxes this season though and it is from those occasions where the hope and expectation for next season is coming from. The pieces appear to be there, they just need honing. Much like the rest of this season though, getting there will require patience to get to where they want to, not just from the staff, from the players, but also from the fans.
The defeat at Sincil Bank is a warning shot. For all their consistent inconsistency this season, performances like that will not be chalked up to experience next season and have to be eliminated. The next five games can and should be used to learn but after that, forgetting results like the one on Tuesday will be off the agenda.