AS an emotional David Dunn walked around the Ewood Park pitch for the final time, warm applause raining down from four corners of the ground, it was hard to hear the Ipswich fans, packed into the corner of the Bryan Douglas Darwen End, celebrating their side’s play-off place.

But if Gary Bowyer and his players did catch them, then it must serve as an inspiration for when the 2015-16 campaign gets under way.

For now, however, it served only as a reminder of what has to go down as a season of underachievement for Rovers.

Not in the FA Cup, where their thrilling run to the quarter-finals underlined what potential they have, but certainly in the league.

Eleven points behind a no more talented Ipswich side was not what was anticipated or desired when the campaign kicked-off back on a balmy evening in August.

Little wonder, then, that after Dunn took one last walk down the tunnel, the over-riding frustration as you stepped out on to the wind and rain-lashed streets was one of frustration.

The reasons why Rovers have fallen short of the top six have already been widely discussed – the chief one being their inability to hold on to leads, particularly in the second half of the campaign.

But when re-evaluating the season as a whole, it was their results in December, January and February, after they had finally broken into the play-off positions, and before the injuries and Financial Fair Play embargo began to take hold, that proved most costly.

Going into those months Rovers were sixth, and four points off top spot, but by the end of them they were 14 points behind the play-off places.

And, while there was an improvement thereafter, they had simply left themselves with too much to do.

In a division as unforgiving as the Championship – it is incredible to think that Derby County, the best team to visit Ewood this season, finished eighth, one place above Rovers – you cannot afford to go on such prolonged runs of poor form.

Rovers can take encouragement from the way they finished the campaign with a deserved and entertaining last-day victory here stretching their unbeaten league run to seven games.

But to progress they must learn from the mistakes they have made this season.

They will try to do that without Dunn, whose long-lasting ties with the club will be cut once his contract expires next month.

And only time will tell if they will try to do that without one or both of their sought-after strikers, whose goals, for most sides, would have guaranteed a top-six finish.

Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede, in front of Premier League scouts, both scored for the third match running here and it meant they became the first Rovers players since Andy McEvoy and John Byrom 50 years ago to each reach 20 league goals in the same campaign.

It also meant that they finished as the most prolific strike partnership in the Championship along with Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo of promoted Watford.

The division’s golden boot award, however, will go to Ipswich’s Daryl Murphy, who opened the scoring after just 76 seconds here when he made the most of slack marking to volley home superbly.

Rovers equalised in the 36th minute when man-of-the-match Craig Conway whipped over an inviting free kick for Rhodes to head home his fourth goal in five games against his former club and his 21st of yet another prolific season.

Only Murphy, with 27, netted more in the league.

And six minutes later Rovers were in front as Gestede flicked on a long Tommy Spurr throw-in for Conway to volley in his fourth goal of a campaign in which he has once again been one of Rovers’ most impressive performers.

Conway also had a hand in his side’s crucial third goal in the 58th minute as he raced on to the kind of pass only Dunn can see and sent over a cross that broke to top-scorer Gestede, who duly took his tally for the term up to 20 in the league and 22 in all competitions.

Substitute Josh King went close to a spectacular fourth before Murphy reduced the deficit in the 82nd minute from the penalty spot.

By that stage, with Derby losing 3-0 to Reading, the celebrations had already started in the away end, leaving their Rovers counterparts to look on enviously and reflect on what might have been.