Adam Jackson’s first half goal dealt a significant setback to the Dons’ hopes of finishing in the play-off places, which were reignited by their dramatic win against York last weekend.
Ardley believes his team can still achieve a top six finish and set a clear target for the number of victories they must achieve.
He said: “Of course the dream is still alive. We’ve got eight games to try and win at least five of them, that’s more than doable for us.
“We won seven out of eight earlier in the season so we know it’s doable. If we don’t win on Monday then we have seven to win five,” Ardley continued. “We won’t stop until it’s mathematically impossible, but today was an opportunity missed.”
Jackson’s goal came when Ryan Sweeney’s first contact on an inswinging free-kick fell to Luke James, whose goalbound shot bounced into the defender’s path, allowing him to nod into the far corner.
The Kingsmeadow chief was exasperated by the manner of the solitary goal.
He blasted: “No-one likes losing and the boys gave everything they can. We’ve given everything but frustratingly we’ve switched off at a second phase set piece and it’s cost us the game.
“Defending pieces has been a thing all season, a bit of an Achilles heel.
“We put in so much effort and preparation to come up here and that one moment leaves you chasing the game.”
In their efforts to chase the game, Ardley brought Tom Elliott, Adebayor Akinfenwa and Ade Azeez off the bench.
Elliott was the first to come on in the 59th minute at the expense of Rhys Murphy, who reacted angrily to his withdrawal.
Ardley sympathised with the striker: “It’s frustration, he wants to score goals.
“Coming off 15 minutes into the second half, he probably feels that’s not long enough to score goals.
“As a manager it’s never personal, you make the substitutions you feel are needed at the time and we didn’t think we were getting on the end of enough crosses.
“It’s nothing personal and Rhys is disappointed for himself and the team.”
The visitors pushed forward in numbers in the second half and Azeez had the best chance to claim a point in injury-time.
Ardley felt his team lacked composure in front of goal: “We got in two or three great areas where you just want that composure on the cross and the finish wasn’t good enough.
“We tried every way, we didn’t look like we were going to get on the end of any of the crosses so we wanted to try something different.
“We brought on Tom for his height and a few of them fell to Ade, unfortunately we came up short and we were unable to take that chance,” Ardley added.
“The boys have given everything and they’re frustrated because they care so much.
“We go again on Monday and we keep going until it’s mathematically impossible for us to do it.”