Lloyd Dyer scored on his return to the Watford side but the Hornets are out of the Capital One Cup after they paid the price for starting both halves poorly and producing a disjointed display as Doncaster Rovers claimed a 2-1 second round victory at Vicarage Road tonight.
Watford started sluggishly and after James Coppinger and Nathan Tyson, the visitors were rewarded for their positive start in the 12th minute when Tyson scored from the penalty spot after Gabriel Tamas had tripped Kyle Bennett in the area.
Lewis McGugan almost restored parity soon after with a fine strike from 25 yards that hit the bar but the Hornets did level just after the half-hour when Odion Igahlo released Dyer and he netted for the third Tuesday running after being left out completely following his controversial goal celebration at Rotherham United last week.
Watford though, had seemingly not learnt the lesson from what happened at the start of the game as they again started slowly at the start of the second period and again paid the price as Liam Wakefield finished off a fine move after being set up by Dean Furman.
As expected, Beppe Sannino made a host of changes, with Tamas and Tommie Hoban the only two players to keep their place from the starting line-up that defeated Leeds United 4-1 on Saturday.
Most significantly, Dyer was included after being omitted from the match-day squad at the weekend, while McGugan was also in the starting XI after being left out of the 18 for the previous two games.
Rene Gilmartin was the back-up goalkeeper after re-joining the Hornets yesterday and there were also places on the bench for youngsters Josh Doherty and George Byers.
Doncaster have made a reasonable return to life in League One and currently sit ninth in the table following Saturday’s 1-0 win at Colchester United.
Boss Paul Dickov opted for two changes to his side, with Nathan Tyson replacing former Hornet Theo Robinson up front while Wakefield came in for Jamie McCombe.
And it was the visitors who had the first chance in the third minute when Dean Furman slipped the ball to the left side of the area for Tyson to strike a first time left-footed shot across goal and not too far wide of Jonathan Bond’s left-hand upright.
A lapse in the Doncaster defence gave Matej Vydra his first sight of goal soon after, but his shot was blocked by Luke McCullough. Moments later though, Coppinger struck a good, low effort that Bond seemed to get a touch on to push it behind, but referee Andy Woolmer awarded a goal kick.
Rovers continued to make the early running and they spurned a fine opening in the ninth minute when a Coppinger free-kick from the left picked out Tyson, who had not been picked up, but he headed into the turf and the ball bounced wide.
The visitors had started impressively against their lethargic hosts and their efforts were rewarded in the 12th minute.
Left-back Cedric Evina made the initial attacking inroads before Furman did well to keep the ball in play close to the left corner flag. The ball was then worked into the penalty area where Bennett drove forward before he was clearly tripped by Tamas and Woolmer wasted no time in pointing to the spot. Tyson opted for a longish run up and a powerful approach but made no mistake, blasting the ball past Bond to give Rovers a 1-0 lead.
The Hornets were very nearly level within three minutes though, as the ball was worked to McGugan, who connected superbly with a 25-yard drive that beat Jed Steer but the goalkeeper was saved by his crossbar before Sean Murray’s follow-up was blocked.
McGugan wasn’t far away again in the 21st minute, curling a right-footed shot narrowly wide of Steer’s right-hand post from 22 yards after being found by Igahlo.
At this stage, the Hornets had switched to a 4-3-3 formation, with Vydra and Dyer providing the width to Igahlo through the midfield, while Ikechi Anya had moved to the left side of midfield behind Dyer.
And it was the last of those players to be mentioned, perhaps inevitably, who got Watford back on terms in the 31st minute.
A neat Ighalo flick released Dyer running towards the left edge of the penalty area and after initially shaping to go inside Wakefield, he beat him on the outside before firing emphatically past Steer and celebrated by cupping his hand over his mouth in front of the Graham Taylor Stand.
Keith Andrews picked up the game’s first yellow card in the 35th minute for a high challenge on Coppinger and Bond had to drop to his knees to deal with a Tyson shot from outside the area as the opening period ended all-square.
As with the first half though, Doncaster were more smartly out of the blocks after the interval and after Bennett had fired over from distance, they retook the lead in the 51st minute.
A fine passing move saw the ball worked to Furman on the right side of the area and he took on and beat his man before cutting the ball back into the middle of the penalty area where Wakefield applied the finish from eight yards to make it 2-1.
Having regained the upper hand, Rovers – or more specifically Reece Wabara – almost handed the Hornets a somewhat farcical equaliser four minutes later when the centre-half knocked the ball past his own keeper but managed to chase back and clear off his own line as Ighalo closed in.
Bennett curled a shot not too far wide from 20 yards at the other end, before the visitors were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Hornets box in the 64th minute but Bennett’s curled effort was held by Bond at the second attempt.
Watford had a decent set-piece opportunity of their own soon after, but after McGugan’s initial effort had found the wall, the midfielder fired his follow-up high and wide of the target.
That was to be McGugan’s last involvement as he was replaced by Gianni Munari in the 69th minute and Daniel Pudil came on for Lloyd Doyley.
Doncaster still looked the more threatening though, and Bennett was to chance his arm from distance again as Bond had to tip over his 20-yard strike, before Watford completed their changes when Diego Fabbrini came on for Murray.
Rovers did have the ball in the net for a third time but that was chalked off for offside before Marc De Val Fernandez saw yellow for a foul on Vydra. That free-kick came to nothing but as the game moved into the final ten minutes Dyer fizzed a half-volley over from the edge of the 18-yard box.
De Val made way for Richie Wellens in the 81st minute as Watford continued to huff and puff without really threatening to create anything clear-cut to try and force extra-time.
But the fact the hosts produced just the one shot on target all evening spoke volumes as their third round hopes ended in rather abject fashion.
Watford: Bond; Doyley (Pudil 69), Tamas, Hoban; Anya, McGugan (Munari 69), Andrews, Murray (Fabbrini 75), Dyer; Ighalo, Vydra. Not used: Gilmartin, Angella, Doherty, Byers.
Doncaster Rovers: Steer; Wakefield, Wabara, McCullough, Evina; Coppinger, De Val (Wellens 79), Keegan, Bennett; Furman; Tyson. Not used: Marosi, Robinson, Peterson, Askins, Lund, Whitehouse.
Bookings: Andrews for a foul on Coppinger (35); De Val for a foul on Vydra (78); Tyson for time wasting (90).
Attendance: 7,318 (270 away).
Referee: Andy Woolmer.