Football's worst-kept secret was finally confirmed yesterday; Derby are the most hopeless team in Premier League history. This defeat left them on 11 points, meaning even victory in their last game at home against Reading would not be enough for them to overhaul Sunderland's tally of 15 set in 2005-6.
Swindon's record of 100 goals conceded in 1993-4 is safe – Derby would need to haemorrhage 15 at Pride Park next Sunday against a team who have forgotten how to score. Still, the statistics are pretty grim and their manager, Paul Jewell, will have his work cut out in the summer. His team actually took the lead through Kenny Miller, but a brace from Roque Santa Cruz and one for Jason Roberts barely reflected Blackburn's dominance after the interval and they could still qualify for the InterToto Cup when they visit Birmingham.
"It was the same old story," Jewell said. "And for the teams who are relegated, it's always the same old story. We played quite well for 44 minutes but we gave goals away and it was a bad time to concede the first just before half-time. It's not about the record; the most important thing is to rebuild for next season."
Mark Hughes said his Rovers team were "a bit fortunate to get back on level terms" when Santa Cruz struck a minute before the interval but added: "We regrouped at half-time and came out with much more drive and purpose to run out comfortable winners."
Derby, backed by an impressive away following who were hoping to enjoy their last trip of the season, started brightly and went ahead through Miller after 19 minutes. Roy Carroll's long kick found Miller on the halfway line, making a mockery of Chris Samba and Ryan Nelsen's efforts to play him offside, and the striker strode forward to slot the ball low to Brad Friedel's right, his sixth goal of the season.
With Robbie Savage winning most of the midfield duels against his former team, Rovers were flat. David Bentley saw one chipped shot tipped over by Carroll and Samba headed the resulting corner straight at the keeper.
Stephen Warnock's block kept Robert Earnshaw from doubling Derby's lead – and they were made to pay in first-half injury-time. Morten Gamst Pedersen's shot bounced horribly in front of Carroll, who spilled the ball and Santa Cruz, Rovers' player of the year, had a simple tap-in.
Whatever was left of Derby's confidence after their 6-2 drubbing against Arsenal last week disappeared, for they fell apart after the break. It took only two minutes more for Rovers to go in front as the slapdash element returned to the Rams' defence, Andy Todd's hopeless back-pass running for Roberts and he beat Carroll from close-range.
The goalkeeper was all that stood between Derby andanother thumping before Santa Cruz netted his second of the game – and the Paraguayan's23rd in an excellent first season – after Bentley's cross presented another gift.
"With Villa losing and Pompey getting beat we have something to play for in the last game of the season, which is a great achievement," Hughes said.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies