Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy reflected on what might have been after his already-relegated side finished the season with a stylish 3-0 victory at MK Dons.
Dale are dropping out of Sky Bet League One after a seven-year spell in the third tier and do so after losing just one of their final seven games.
For much of the season, Barry-Murphy was unable to call upon some of his key players because of injury and his relatively small squad struggled to cope with the demands of a compressed campaign.
He said: “Eighteen months ago, Milton Keynes were a little bit behind us in terms of where we are, but what they’ve been able to do is add strength to a forming group, where we tend to lose our best and most senior players on a summer basis.
“So our game plan was to be as aggressive as possible and create as many opportunities as possible, and I think that’s how we played the game.
“We’ve scored goals all season, but there’s been parts where we’ve conceded loads of goals.
“It’s normally reflective of who we’ve had available. That’s probably where we are as a club.
“I believe we have a very strong team for League One but we haven’t been able to keep our best players fit.
“But we didn’t have a strong squad and players who came in when we had injuries were youth players. That’s been the difference this season.”
Rochdale went ahead early in the second half when Aaron Morley’s free-kick caught out goalkeeper Alex Fisher at his near post, with Jimmy Keohane’s deflected effort quickly doubling their lead.
Substitute Stephen Humphrys added a third with five minutes left with a dinked finish after being set up by youngster Abraham Odoh.
MK Dons boss Russell Martin said: “I actually quite liked the first half, I thought it was pretty good.
“We had one big chance we should have scored. Ethan (Laird) getting injured changed the game a little bit, just in terms of mentality, and we lost an outlet because he was in the box about four times in the first 15 minutes.
“I think it just disrupted the flow a little bit and the intensity dropped a little bit.
“It’s tough, the last game of the season, when there’s not much to play for. I said to the guys that we want to avoid as many of these games as possible.
“Next season, I don’t want to be in this position where we’re at the end and there’s nothing on it. I just don’t want to feel that way, really.
“It’s a really disappointing way to finish a season where I feel they’ve grown so much.”