MK Dons were beaten 4-1 by promotion favourites Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday afternoon.
Ed Upson cancelled out Derrick Williams’ early opener but a double from Charlie Mulgrew and a close-range strike from Dominic Samuel won it for Tony Mowbray’s side, who were relegated from the Sky Bet Championship last season.
Pete Pawlett made his first Dons start but Kieran Agard (groin), Osman Sow (thigh) and Joe Walsh (knee) missed out.
Rovers made the perfect start, left-back Williams firing a driven effort into the bottom right-hand corner from 20 yards inside three minutes.
The men from MK1 looked to respond immediately and Ryan Seager saw a strike blocked before Pawlett dragged a shot from distance wide of the target.
Blackburn carried a threat going forward and Marcus Antonsson headed into the side-netting after Scott Wootton had picked up a clever position to clear a cross a minute earlier.
The Dons’ best move of the match came as the game approached the midway point of the first half but George Williams’ cross didn’t quite reach Aaron Tshibola.
At the other end, Dean Lewington made a strong tackle to deny Samuel before Lee Nicholls denied Antonsson with a fine save away to his right.
The men from MK1 capitalised on the home side’s missed opportunities on 26 minutes when Upson confidently swept home from 12 yards after Williams’ delivery had deflected into the midfielder’s path.
Neilson’s side were level for long, though, as Mulgrew curled a free-kick over the wall and past Nicholls into the bottom right-hand corner from 25 yards.
Some quick footwork from Gboly Ariyibi presented a chance for him to cross but he couldn’t pick out a team-mate before Seager was denied at close range from Ethan Ebanks-Landell’s cut-back.
David Raya made a routine save to deny Upson from distance as the half drew a close, one which the Dons would have to improve on if they wanted to take something from the game.
Williams was impressing and he made a superb block to deny Corry Evans before, at the other end, he tested Raya with a shot from a tight angle and then headed just wide.
Ousseynou Cisse sent a long-range effort wide of the right-hand post on the hour mark as the Dons tried to up the pressure on the Rovers backline.
Shortly afterwards, Seager couldn’t quite wriggle away from two challenges nor could Ariyibi find a team-mate after a smart turn had created a crossing opportunity.
Following a foul on Pawlett, Tshibola stepped up and curled a free-kick narrowly over from 25 yards with 20 minutes remaining – the Dons continued to push for an equaliser.
However, Rovers extended their lead on 78 minutes when Mulgrew headed home from close range after Elliott Ward had directed Harry Chapman’s cross into the defender’s path.
Samuel sealed the hosts’ success five minutes later, firing into the net from 12 yards after meeting Chapman’s cut-back.
Starting XI: Nicholls; Williams, Ebanks-Landell, Wootton, Lewington (c); Cisse, Upson,Pawlett (Muirhead 68), Tshibola, Ariyibi; Seager (Nombe 77).
Unused subs: Sietsma, Brittain, Downing, McGrandles, Thomas-Asante.
Goal: Upson (26).
Attendance: 10,111 (272 Dons fans).