DERBY, England (AFP) - Derby's miserable season went from bad to worse as they suffered an embarrassing 4-1 FA Cup fourth round defeat against Championship strugglers Preston.
Paul Jewell's side are bottom of the Premier League with only one win and already look destined for relegation. Now they can add a dismal exit from the Cup to their list of ignominious results.
Preston are slumbering at the foot of English football's second tier but they totally out-classed the Rams thanks to two Karl Hawley goals either side of Simon Whaley's effort before Neil Mellor's late penalty.
Robert Earnshaw's second half goal was no consolation for Derby, who were jeered off by their frustrated fans.
Alan Irvine's men had won two of their last three matches, whereas Derby hadn't won in 19 matches. The disparity in confidence was clear as Preston took control from the start.
Andy Todd was caught in possession by Chris Brown in the Derby penalty area and he teed up Hawley to slot home a clinical finish in the 13th minute.
Despite Robbie Savage's return, Derby lacked the aggression to compete with their fired-up opponents.
They could have been further behind when Paul McKenna blazed over from the edge of the area.
Savage curled a free-kick wide as Derby finally threatened but it was a short-lived revival. Preston were picking the Rams apart with sweeping counter-attacks and they increased their lead in the 33rd minute.
Hawley surged down the right wing and found Darren Carter on the edge of area. His pass found Whaley in space and the midfielder curled his low shot inside the right post.
Derby were in disarray and the killer blow was delivered on the stroke of half time.
Once again Jewell's team had only themselves to blame. Hawley punished another mistake from Todd and tucked the ball inside the right post.
Derby have been taken over by a group of American investors but they must have been thinking twice about the investment after this horror-show.
Earnshaw gave them brief hope of comeback when he broke the offside trap to convert Kenny Miller's pass in the 55th minute.
Savage had a chance when he found himself alone at the far post but his close-range effort was well saved by Andy Lonergan. That was as good as it got for Derby. They never threatend again and Mellor added a fourth in stoppage time.
Lewin Nyatanga was shown a straight red for a professional foul on Mellor, who picked himself up to fire the spot-kick low into the right corner.
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