DERBY, England (AFP) - Derby manager Paul Jewell is convinced his side have a bright future despite their embarrassing FA Cup exit against Championship strugglers Preston.
Jewell's side lie bottom of the Premier League with only one win and already look destined for relegation. Now they can add a dismal 4-1 defeat in the fourth round on Saturday 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.
But Jewell remains hopeful that the club's new American owners will provide the investment needed to rebuild the Rams.
"One of the reasons I came here was that hopefully there was going to be some American investment coming in," Jewell said.
"I have spoken to the investors on a couple of occasions and met them in Manchester so they know it's a tough job. They know what a state the team is in at the moment.
"They, like me, see the bigger picture and the bigger picture here is if we get it right it will take off.
"We had a great season last year. It hasn't happened this season but I'm hoping I'll be sat here in a year telling you about the tough times last year that hopefully made not just me stronger, but the club stronger."
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.
"We felt as if we had a chance," Irvine said. "There's no way we felt that we were favourites coming into the game.
"We knew that if we could keep a solid shape and that if we could be clinical when we got chances then we would have a chance of winning the game.
"But there's no way I thought beforehand that I would be sitting here talking about a 4-1 win.
"I felt right from the beginning of the game we controlled the possession. We passed the ball well."
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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