Paul Tisdale admits it is “winner takes all” when MK Dons take on Mansfield on the final day with an automatic promotion place at stake after they lost 2-0 at play-off hopefuls Colchester.
The Dons are level on points with the third-placed Stags going into the final weekend, after goals from Sammie Szmodics and Frankie Kent condemned them to defeat.
Szmodics fired the U’s ahead after just 95 seconds, drilling in a low shot from the edge of the area after the visitors had partially cleared Sam Saunders’ corner.
Kent doubled the hosts’ lead in the 48th minute, slotting home from just inside the area after Frank Nouble and Szmodics had created the chance.
David Wheeler and Chuks Aneke both hit the woodwork for MK Dons, but Colchester were worthy winners.
Tisdale said: “It’s one more game and we’ve still got a chance to win the last game and achieve promotion, so now it’s all about what we do in the next seven days.
“Maybe things haven’t quite been going for us, but it is what it is and we have a game in front of us next week (against Mansfield) which is a cup final and winner takes all.
“You can dig too deep into it sometimes.
“I think we started with a real positive approach – there was nothing hesitant about the way we started the game.
“I didn’t think we did too much wrong with the first goal but it’s in the back of the net.
“But their second was a poor one and it’s just hesitation, but although we possibly didn’t deserve to win, we hit the crossbar and the post and the rebound (from Kieran Agard) was clearly onside.”
Colchester head into their final game at champions Lincoln two points off the play-off places.
U’s boss John McGreal said: “All of the teams chasing have won, but so have we.
“It goes down to the last game and we’ve been able to stay in and around it all season.
“For three years, we’ve had good shots at the play-offs.
“All we can do is look after ourselves – we need favours from others but if we get that and we don’t look after ourselves, it means we’ve let ourselves down.
“All we can try and do is win a game of football.
“MK Dons are a huge club in our division and they’ve been top three all season.
“We had a blip to knock ourselves out of it but we’ve come back again and you know what you’re going to get with Paul’s teams.
“I’ve got a lot of time for him and we knew it was going to be a tough game, but we were able to get the points.”