Derby deserved their success after dominating the first half, with Aljosa Asanovic outstanding in midfield. Dean Sturridge and Ward also posed headaches for the Coventry defence.
The second half was more even, with new Coventry signing Darren Huckerby playing well in his first full match. But overall, Derby were on top.
There were danger signals for Coventry before Derby took the lead in the 12th minute. Ward turned past Richard Shaw, and Paul Williams could only deflect his cross-shot towards his own goal and was relieved to see it bounce to safety off Coventry goalkeeper Steve Ogrizovic's body. But Ogrizovic had no chance when Asanovic sent him the wrong way from the penalty spot after Ward had been hauled down by Shaw.
Sturridge, who looked back to full sharpness after injury, caused problems for Coventry. He had an instinctive 20-yard shot turned round the post by Ogrizovic, and then his pace took him past Liam Daish, only for the Coventry keeper to block his low shot.
Coventry, apart from one early chance squandered by Eoin Jess, struggled during the opening 45 minutes. But two minutes before the interval, and against the run of play, they equalised. Dion Dublin rose unchallenged at the near post to head home a John Salako corner. Dublin then wasted two good chances.
Coventry looked dangerous on the break but, in the 79th minute, Derby regained the lead. A free-kick from Asanovic was flicked on by Dean Yates and Ward put the ball into the roof of the net.Reuse content