As Everton prepared for their farewell lap of honour the crowd was asked by Goodison's garrulous announcer to "put their hands together to mark the end of an... er... important season."
The words "marvellous" or "unforgettable" could not quite form on his lips but the transformation wrought by David Moyes, whose first home defeat this was, has ensured that the next time Everton run out at Goodison it will be to celebrate the club's 100th season of top-flight football.
Moyes should be grateful it is unlikely to start in early July. The club had applied to enter this summer's Intertoto Cup, which they will only now do if they finish above Fulham and since Everton's final match is at Highbury, this is a scenario only for the most optimistic Merseysider. Moyes' team is not remotely ready for European football but the fact that Goodison's final home match of the season was a dead game is a tribute to the transformation he has fashioned since Walter Smith's sacking.
The only way this match could have any significance was if Blackburn failed to turn up and were docked three points, a method of relegation not used since Middlesbrough tried it in 1997. Blackburn not only found their way to Goodison, they played some neat, attractive second-half football, scored twice and struck the bar and the post and ended the afternoon 12th in the Premiership.
The game was won by Blackburn's class acts, players whom Everton simply do not possess; Matt Jansen and Andy Cole scored, David Dunn supplied both goals, while the home side had no answer to the forays made by Damien Duff down the left. Despite his 15 goals, Jansen will have ended the season with a mental and physical twinge of disappointment. He has been playing on despite needing a hernia operation and earlier this month a stomach upset cost him the chance of an England debut against Paraguay.
"I think it was a case of Sven [Goran Eriksson] wanting to take a look at him as he had done with Michael Ricketts in the Holland game," said his manager, Graeme Souness. "Matt would have had to have played very well to have got on that plane. Andy Cole has done what we paid our money for and why he is not on the plane to Japan and Korea cannot be for footballing reasons."
Both men took their chances with style, although Moyes did not deny Paul Gerrard should have cut out Dunn's cross which Jansen headed comfortably home. The Everton defence did not manage much better with Dunn's free-kick four minutes after the restart; again Jansen won the header, only this time Gerrard pushed it away. Garry Flitcroft, two yards out, somehow slid the rebound on to the post. Some 17 minutes from the end, a more deliberate shot from Dunn cracked against the crossbar.
By then, Blackburn had the match under control. Everton had equalised in the 51st minute when Nick Chadwick's back-heel in a crowded area earned him his third goal in as many appearances at Goodison but they maintained parity for less than a quarter-of-an-hour.
Kevin Campbell headed Dunn's corner only as far as Duff, whose volley was pushed upwards by Gerrard, allowing Cole to restore Blackburn's lead with a stooping header. For the first time since Moyes took charge of what they now call "The People's Club" his team were booed off, only to return for an affectionate ovation. How very like Everton fans to be at once frustrated and forgiving.
Goals: Jansen (10) 0-1. Chadwick (51) 1-1. Cole (63) 1-2.
Everton (4-4-2): Gerrard 4; Watson 5, Weir 7, Stubbs 5, Pistone 6; Alexandersson 5 (Radzinski 5, 74), Gemmill 5, Gravesen 4, Unsworth 7 (Blomqvist, 82); Chadwick 7, Campbell 5. Substitutes not used: Linderoth, Pettinger (gk), Carsley.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 5; Taylor 4, Berg 6, Short 5, Hakan 4 (Johansson 5, 64); Dunn 8, Tugay 6, Flitcroft 5 (Gillespie 5, 64), Duff 8; Jansen 8, Cole 7. Substitutes not used: Hughes, Yordi, Kelly (gk).
Referee: J Winter (Stockton) 6.
Bookings: Everton: Stubbs, Unsworth. Blackburn: Jansen, Cole.
Man of the match: Dunn.
Attendance: 34,976.Reuse content