Louie Sibley scored his first senior goal on his eighth appearance for Derby
Derby County moved within five points of a Championship play-off place with victory over fellow hopefuls Blackburn.
Louie Sibley marked his full league debut with a stunning left-foot strike from 25 yards to put the Rams in front.
Chris Martin then slid in to double the lead after Blackburn keeper Christian Walton could only parry Graeme Shinnie’s long-range effort.
Martin added a third from the spot after Jason Knight was fouled, before Rovers had John Buckley sent off.
The substitute was shown a straight red card in stoppage time for a crude lunge on Derby defender Curtis Davies.
Victory lifts Derby, who were without January signing Wayne Rooney because of what boss Phillip Cocu described after the game as a “minor muscle problem”, up to 12th in the table.
But with fixtures against fellow top-half sides Millwall, Preston, Nottingham Forest, West Brom, Brentford, Cardiff and Leeds still to come in their final nine games, their play-off hopes remain in their own hands.
Former England captain Wayne Rooney watched Derby’s win over Blackburn from the stands
Blackburn, who would have climbed into the top six with victory, started brightly but failed to take their early chances, with Tosin Adarabioyo heading over and ex-Nottingham Forest forward Ben Brereton slicing off target from corners.
But once Derby settled into the game they began to take control and could have have more goals to show for their efforts by the break than teenage midfielder Sibley’s shot into the top corner and Martin’s opportunistic effort.
Walton twice made fine saves to deny the Rams, first pushing Martin’s curling shot around the post before denying Martyn Waghorn, who also hit the post from a tight angle, with his legs.
He continued to repel Derby after the break, tipping Waghorn’s free-kick around the post and holding Max Bird’s long-range drive.
Rovers offered more of a threat as Derby sat on their lead, with Ben Hamer recovering from being wrong-footed to get a hand on Amari’i Bell’s deflected strike to keep their advantage intact.
Their fading hopes were well and truly quashed when Martin secured back-to-back league wins for the Rams from the penalty spot after Elliott Bennett tripped Knight late on.
Derby boss Phillip Cocu told BBC Radio Derby:
“I think we played an excellent game of football.
“I enjoyed how we played in the first half and we discussed at half-time, because in football two halves are never the same, to keep the initiative and playing with the same energy and we did.
“We missed two or three chances but we have to be realistic that not every shot is a goal.
“Over the entire game, we played a good game of football today.”
Blackburn Rovers manager Tony Mowbray told BBC Radio Lancashire:
“Derby were better than us today, they played particularly well.
“They built from the back really well and they’ve got some talented young players.
“I’m not sure we got the balance right, we believed we could hurt them with the forward options we have but we probably had too many attacking-minded players on the pitch.”
- Match Stats
- Live Text
- 37BogleSubstituted forWhittakerat 88'minutes
- 41BirdBooked at 72mins
- 9WaghornSubstituted forDaviesat 76'minutes
- 40SibleyBooked at 75minsSubstituted forMarriottat 76'minutes
- 31BennettBooked at 84mins
- 9GallagherSubstituted forGrahamat 72'minutes
- 27TravisBooked at 25minsSubstituted forJohnsonat 59'minutes
- 8RothwellBooked at 45mins
- 20BreretonSubstituted forBuckleyat 72'minutesBooked at 90mins
Home TeamDerbyAway TeamBlackburnPossessionHome56%Away44%ShotsHome16Away11Shots on TargetHome11Away3CornersHome3Away6FoulsHome12Away14
Match ends, Derby County 3, Blackburn Rovers 0.