Learning to lose has been a difficult lesson to learn for Dean Lewington and his MK Dons team-mates.
The 3-0 defeat on the road at QPR on Saturday was Dons’ eighth defeat of the season, now just one shy of their total league defeats in the promotion winning campaign last time out.
Becoming accustomed to winning is something Dons have had to overcome this season though, as the expectation of the club now seems firmly to remain in the Championship rather than to cause any real upset by finishing higher than their means.
For the captain, it is something the players have to get used to fast.
“We know we’ll lose more games this season than we did last season,” Lewington said in the aftermath of the defeat at Loftus Road. “But we’ve got to bounce back in the right way. The gaffer will have his opinions on players if mistakes keep happening. We’ll keep fighting until our luck turns.
“It has been a little bit harder because of the start we made. I wouldn’t say it was a false dawn, but we had the batch of games where we played well but were losing. That was new to us.
“In League 1, we’d play well and if we got a point we’d be disappointed. It has been a tough learning curve. We have to be at our best and take our chances every game. It has taken some getting used to. And learning to bounce back too. And we have to learn that sooner rather than later.”
Each game in the Championship appears bigger and better than the previous. From trips to Middlesbrough and Burnley to home games against Leeds, Derby County and Blackburn, the big name opposition is around every corner, and while Lewington knows they’ve got to start winning soon, he admits Dons cannot afford to overlook the sense of occasion the Championship is brining to the club.
He said: “Next up is Hull - another former Premier League team. And it’ll be a great occasion. We have to look at it like that. They keep coming. Former Premier League team, and another, and a team with a £10m striker. We have to get used to it.
“You come to these massive clubs, and their budgets are ridiculous and can afford those types of players.
“But we’re not going to use those excuses, we’ve fought for 10 years to get this club here - we’re not going to complain about clubs with more money than us.
“We worked hard to get here, and we’ll continue to work hard and we’ll find a way to win games at this level.”
And against QPR, the opportunity was there to snatch the lead when Simon Church went through on goal only to have his shot well saved by former England keeper Rob Green.
Three goals in the final 20 minutes flattered the home side come the final whistle, though they certainly deserved all three points.
Lewington said the performance was a big step forward compared to the 2-0 defeat away at Huddersfield in the week, but says the strikers must take their opportunities in front of goal if Dons are to succeed.
“We’re disappointed because we played pretty well in the second half,” he added. “The fans were beginning to turn, we were starting to get on top and then they scored, and it was a sucker blow.
“They had one chance until the goal. It’s such a fine level now. Previously, we’d have three or four chances, and we could get away with one at the back but that’s not the case anymore.
“If you don’t score, you’ll get punished. It’s a very harsh lesson but that’s the way it is.”