Rovers' Under-21s went down to a 3-0 away loss against a strong Derby County outfit on Tuesday night.
With the first team in action against Fulham at Ewood Park on the same evening, it was a young side that travelled to the iPro Stadium with just goalkeeper Simon Eastwood with any meaningful first team experience.
In contrast, the Rams started with former England international Darren Bent and £3m signing Nick Blackman up front, and it was Bent who opened the scoring on nine minutes when he headed home a cross from Callum Guy.
Moments later Rovers had the ball in the back of the net themselves when David Carson raced through to round the keeper. But inexplicably play was brought back for a foul on Lewis Mansell when advantage should have been allowed.
Rovers continue to impose themselves as the first half wore on, Connor Mahoney seeing a shot deflect for a corner after the winger cut inside to shoot, before Sam Lavelle nodded over from another set-piece.
Damien Johnson's side started the second half on the attack, but they couldn't turn their dominance into goals. A strong run from Lavelle saw the defender shoot narrowly wide, before Mahoney stung the gloves of Jonathan Mitchell.
But despite that early pressure from the Rovers, it was the Rams who grabbed the key second goal on 58 minutes.
Nick Blackman saw his effort saved by Eastwood, but Ivan Calero was on hand to snap up the rebound.
Blackman and Bent made way on the hour mark but Derby grew stronger as Guy, Calero and sub Kwame Thomas all went close to stretching the home side's advantage.
A third and final goal did arrive on 90 minutes through Shaquille McDonald. The substitute collecting the ball on the edge of the box before bending his left-foot shot beyond Eastwood to wrap up the victory.
"Between them scoring their first goal and their second I thought we were the better team," said Johnson.
"But then we lost our way, our confidence was knocked, we lost momentum, and our heads dropped which was disappointing.
"I felt the scoreline was harsh and not really a fair reflection of the game. But it was a great learning experience for our young defenders against top international players.
"It was disappointing to lose but it is vital that they learn from the experience, that is the challenge for them."
ROVERS: Eastwood, Nyambe, Askew, Hardcastle, Lavelle (c), Wharton (sub Platt 88 mins), Mahoney, Rankin-Costello, Mansell (sub Green 80 mins), Carson (sub Joel 67 mins), Thomson
Subs not used: Crump, Tanner.