Coventry penalised by Derby double

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Derby County 2 Coventry City 1

Derby's powerful striking partnership of Ashley Ward and Dean Sturridge extended Coventry's winless run to 10 matches, despite having only made a handful of appearances together.

The pair gave an impressive demonstration of the potential Jim Smith, the Derby manager, believes can ensure a successful first season back in the top flight. Ward's 79th-minute winner took Derby's unbeaten sequence to four matches, and their 10-point haul from that run has lifted them to ninth in the table.

Steve McClaren, the first-team coach, said: "They complement each other so well. Ashley holds the ball up and brings other people into play, while Dean has the pace to really trouble defences.

"We started well, and if we had put away the chances we created in the first half we would have been in a decent position. But we did not take the majority of them, and full credit to Coventry, who never gave up.

"Their equaliser just before half-time knocked the stuffing out of us after we had played so well, but we said at half-time it was important just to keep the performance going."

Gordon Strachan, the Coventry manager, now faces an uphill battle to stave off relegation with his side having collected only one point from three matches since he took over from Ron Atkinson, but he took satisfaction from the way his side refused to give in.

"I felt once we had got Sturridge under some sort of control we sorted things out," Strachan said. "I felt the game was turning our way and we created a lot of good chances when the score was 1-1, but we missed them and paid the penalty."

Strachan was incensed by the awarding of the 12th-minute penalty against his side when Richard Shaw was adjudged to have pulled down Ward. "I didn't think it was a penalty, and then exactly the same kind of challenge was made on Darren Huckerby but the referee didn't give it."

Goals: Asanovic (pen 12) 1-0; Dublin (43) 1-1; Ward (79) 2-1.

Derby County: Hoult, Laursen, Yates, McGrath (Dailly, 71), Stimac, Flynn, Powell, Asanovic (Carsley, 89), Rowett, Sturridge, Ward. Substitutes not used: Willems, Simpson, Taylor (gk).

Coventry City: Ogrizovic, Shaw, Williams, Daish, Jess, McAllister, Salako (Strachan, 85), Telfer, Whelan, Dublin, Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Richardson, Borrows, Goodwin, Filan (gk).

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).

Bookings: Derby: Stimac. Coventry: Dublin, Telfer.

Man of the match: Ward.

Attendance: 18,042.