Finishing outside of the top six and not reaching the League 1 play-offs for the first time in three years is a failure in Karl Robinson’s eyes.
Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Scunthorpe United was the writing on the wall for Dons as it finally became mathematically impossible to make the play-offs this season.
Having previously claimed to have the best team in League 1 and setting out his stall to win the division, Robinson admits that even with a game to go, the season has fallen well short.
“Yes, it has been a failure,” Robinson said. “We are where we are – it’s a reality check. We feel the burden of wanting to go up.
“I feel like I have let the fans down, my family and the chairman down too. It has left a sour taste in my mouth.
“We set ourselves up to be shot at. We’re not in the top six budget wise, but we still set ourselves up to win the league because we felt we had the team.
“But I still feel that if we had everyone fit, we’d be more competitive. No-one will ever know what this team could have achieved. It could have been worse, but I feel it would have been better.”
After Saturday’s defeat, Dean Bowditch said that the Dons players were to blame for their failings. But Robinson insists the blame game stops with him.
He said: “Ultimately over the course of the season, I’ve not been good enough and I have to take responsibility for that.
“There are no fingers to be pointed. I feel we were good enough to go up this season, but the buck ultimately stops with me.”
This is the first time since 2009-10 that Dons have failed to extend their season. Under Robinson, Dons came unstuck against Peterborough United and Huddersfield Town in the play-off semi-finals.
But although Dons won’t be fighting it out for a place at Wembley in May, the manager says he feels worse about those disappointments than he does about not making the play-offs at all this year.
“I felt worse last year and the year before that,” he said. “I couldn’t see any reasons why, in the previous play-off campaigns, we haven’t gone up.
“In the play-offs, we were dealt two or three bad blows from refereeing decisions, probably the worst ones in the club’s history.
“This year it has been down to injuries, silly suspensions and a lack of professionalism in certain games has cost us.”
Dons travel to Stevenage on Saturday for their last game of the season, hoping to improve on the ninth place they find themselves in. A win could see them finish seventh.