Under-21s' Play-Off ambitions dented following heavy defeat at Moor Farm.
Derby County’s Under-21s dropped to third in the Professional Development League Two, as four first-half goals from Birmingham City stunned the Rams at Moor Farm Training Ground.
Derby’s defeat, combined with Huddersfield Town’s late winner against Coventry City, means the Terriers leapfrog the Rams into second position, with one League game remaining of the 2012/13 campaign.
A double from Michael Richardson followed by strikes from Koby Arthur and James Fry left the Rams with a mountain to climb in the second half, and despite a spirited riposte, the Blues’ lead proved unassailable.
Although Michael Hoganson and Conor Doyle both went close for the home side in the opening five minutes, Richardson got the scoring underway when he took full advantage from a mistake by Valentin Gjokaj before steering the ball beyond Ross Atkins.
Michael Jacobs fired into the side netting following Mason Bennett’s cut-back, but it was a case of déjà vu for the hosts, as this time, James O’Connor was punished for hesitating on the ball, as Arthur crossed for Richardson who tapped in from inside the six-yard box after 26 minutes.
Six minutes later the Blues forced a third when the impressive Arthur drilled a shot into the bottom corner from a tight angle in a swift counter-attacking move.
The Rams’ misery was only compiled in first-half stoppage time when Fry took control of a loose ball in the penalty area and volleyed past Atkins from close range, to send the Blues four goals ahead at the interval.
After some undoubtedly stern words at the break, Derby took just five minutes to create their first opening of the half when Mason Bennett outmuscled defender Ryan Higgins, but Callum Preston thwarted the striker’s subsequent effort from a difficult angle at the goalkeeper’s near post.
Arthur came close to grabbing his second of the game shortly after the hour, when his 20-yard strike forced Atkins into a superb reflex stop, in between efforts from substitute Sam Smith and Hoganson for the Rams that both drifted narrowly wide.
With time running out, Preston produced a wonderful stop to deny Doyle’s instinctive toe poke from close-range, whilst the visitors’ attacking threat continued with Reece Hales striking the foot of the post in the final quarter of an hour.
The result means the Rams’ Under-21s’ ambitions of a Play-Off place are now out of their hands, as they dropped to third position in the table, one point behind second-placed Huddersfield.
Therefore, Derby go into the final game of the season against Wigan Athletic on Wednesday afternoon needing three points as well as a Leeds United victory over Huddersfield on Monday 29th April to seal second spot.
Derby County: Atkins; O'Connor, Gjokaj, Adams, Freeman; Jacobs, Davies (Hanson 62), Hughes (Smith 46), Hoganson; Bennett, Doyle.
Subs not used: Morch, Lelan, Rawson.