Paul Tisdale said the young members of his squad had a few home truths told to them after Dons suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Brackley Town on Friday night.
Courtney Richards got the only goal of the game after three minutes, poking home from a corner. While Dons edged the chances in the first half with a strong first team on the field, Tisdale made 10 changes at the break, and an 11th on the hour mark, introducing a much younger side.
However, while Robbie Muirhead hit the bar and missed two other great chances, Dons struggled to create in the second period, and the complacency of the young players even saw Dean Lewington read the riot act to Sam Nombe on the field.
For Tisdale, he admitted his side still has a long way to go and said his younger players won't have walked away from St James Park with as much of a spring in their step..
"There is plenty to learn from it," he said. "I know from experience that you don't get too pleased when you win and you don;t get too disappointed when you lose them. But I would have liked for us to have played better today.
"There is some work to do, that's for sure. I;m still finding my feet with it all, but we have some time, not a lot, but have some time. It's achievable. We have to get ourselves into a collective sense of mind and work together as a team, in attack and defence. It's not that complicated, but we're making it look a bit complicated.
"Playing football can't harm (young players). I doubt they'll be as chirpy after tonight's game - there were a few harsh realities shown to them tonight. It's a sharp learning curve, and they were playing with experienced players in there who can help them along the way. It's all experience. There will be ups and downs.
"They won't be leaving here with too many of the joys of spring but it's all part of their learning. Tonight shows there's still work to be done."
Tisdale was impressed with Brackley, who lifted the FA Trophy at Wembley last season but missed out on promotion to the National League via the play-offs, but said he felt his side should have come out comfortably on top against non-league opposition.
He continued: "Brackley are a good team, on a good surface, they had a real rhythm. Well played them.
"There aren't too many excuses, we should have been better. I've been here a couple of weeks, and I have to decide what I'm asking the players to do. Any team has to play on the same page and we're not quite there yet. I'll work it out though.
"I'm not too despondent with the loss, though it wasn't great. The positives are there were no injuries, most players got at least 45 minutes.
"I've experienced a lot of pre-seasons as a player and a manager: sometimes you win them all and don't have a good start, sometimes you lose them all and make a great start. But that's not the formula.
"We have work to do, and we want to be ready for Oldham. There's no harm in having a bit of fear in there, knowing they have to be better."