A weakened Watford side failed to capitalise on a first half of domination as they were knocked out of the Carling Cup after a 2-1 defeat to Notts County.

The Hornets were excellent in the first half but were unable to take one of their 13 chances in the opening period.

And it cost Malky Mackay's men as Ben Davies scored a free kick early into the second half and Kevin Smith doubled his side's lead on 67 minutes.

Troy Deeney pulled one back with his first goal for the club but the Hornets went out off the Carling Cup to League One opposition for the second year in a row Arguably, more worrying for the Hornets was the sight of Danny Graham hobbling off with what seemed like a groin injury late on.

Watford made five changes to the side which drew with Hull City on Saturday – with Scott Loach, Graham, Lee Hodson, Martin Taylor and captain John Eustace all rested.

Deeney was handed his first start since arriving from Walsall and scholar Adam Thompson was promoted into the first team at right back.

Loach and Graham were substitutes but with new arrivals Jordon Mutch and Josh Walker both ineligible, the bench was full of inexperience.

The Hornets did not look like a side who had made five changes though as neat movement saw County keeper Stuart Nelson at full stretch to stop a Deeney pull back in the opening minute.

Don Cowie had also already fired over from the edge of the area when Marvin Sordell hit the post inside four minutes.

Neat interplay released full back Thompson wide right and his cross was headed against the upright by Sordell from ten yards out, with Nelson saving Stephen McGinn's follow-up header.

Less than two minutes later, Nelson produced a superb stop as he tipped Will Buckley's 25-yard strike over the bar.

The Notts County keeper was in excellent form and palmed over a Sordell strike soon after following a good turn by the young striker.

The Hornets should have scored from the resulting corner when Deeney lept highest from a Cowie corner but the former Walsall man headed wide from close range.

Six attempts in nine minutes had set the tone though and Watford continued to control possession and pose problems as Ross Jenkins sliced wide from 20 yards.

However, the visitors almost took a shock lead when a low Davies' free kick was missed by the Watford defenders and Rene Gilmartin fumbled the ball inside the six yard box. Fortunately Adrian Mariappa was there to hook the ball clear.

Sordell finally beat Nelson as he rounded the County keeper but with the goal at his mercy and only six yards out, John Thompson slid in to take the ball off the Watford striker's foot. The Hornets' strong penalty appeal was turned away by referee Phil Crossley.

Buckley was next to go close as he smashed a shot over the bar from 12 yards.

The home side were cruising and twice Sordell was unable to get a shot away after being picked out by Deeney and then Jenkins.

The Hornets were flying going forward but did not look as comfortable at the back when County attacked on the odd occasion. Bennett was fortunate not to be punished when he misjudged a header to allow Davies in to shoot and his effort needed to be gathered at the second attempt by Gilmartin.

Watford had 11 attempts in just over half an hour and Sordell had five of those. A quick free kick allowed the former Tranmere Rovers loanee to drag a shot wide under pressure and then he selfishly had a tame shot saved, when the better option was to lay the ball off to Jenkins.

Deeney's battling up top finally resulted in a deserved free kick 18 yards out but Cowie's effort was deflected wide for a corner.

Another Cowie free kick saw Buckley head wide from two yards out but the offside flag saved the forward's blushes.

Cowie's set pieces were causing problems and Deeney had an effort deflected wide shortly before the break.

And deep into injury time, County needed Thompson to make a last-ditch challenge once again as the full back blocked a McGinn shot from inside the six-yard box.

Watford had 13 attempts at goal in the first half, six of which were on target, but unbelievably went into the break level.

And they were punished less than two minutes after the restart. Doyley gave away a needless free kick 25 yards out and Davies curled a low shot into the bottom-left corner.

Watford were struggling to find the same rhythm in the second half and it took them until the 56th minute to create another chance but once again, Sordell was unable to get a shot away due to a last-ditch challenge, this time by Krystian Pearce.

Cowie's set pieces were still posing the odd problem and Deeney had another header go over just after the hour-mark.

The Hornets needed a lift but despite Sordell having a powerful long-range shot saved, unbelievably, the visitors doubled their lead on 67 minutes.

Substitute Craig Westcarr picked out Smith, who had lost Bennett, and the County striker headed past Gilmartin into the far corner.

Craig Short's men were the better side in the second half and with just over a quarter of an hour remaining, Mackay brought on last season's top scorer Graham in search of a way back into the match.

The Hornets now had Deeney, Sordell and Graham up top and in the 79th minute, Watford pulled one back.

Cowie picked up the ball wide left and found Deeney in the six-yard box, leaving the striker to head home his first goal for the club.

Jon Harley was brought on in the 84th minute and received a warm reception from the crowd. Sconds later Graham had a shot at goal saved by Nelson.

County were looking the more dangerous side though and Davies had another free kick in a similar position to his goal in the 87th minute, this time it went wide of the near post.

Watford had a great chance to send the match into extra time with one minute of normal time remaining when the ball fell to Graham at the far post but the striker uncharacteristically sliced his shot wide of the near post from eight yards out.

Worryingly Graham went off injured early into the five minutes of injury time and Watford were struggling to break down County as they put ten men behind the ball.

Sordell had a tame shot saved late on but the Hornets were unable to find an equaliser.

Watford: Gilmartin; Thompson (Oshodi 80), Bennett, Mariappa, Doyley; Jenkins, McGinn, Cowie, Buckley (Graham 74, Bryan 90); Sordell, Deeney.

Subs: Loach, Mingoia, Whichelow, Henderson.

Notts County: Nelson; Thompson, Pearce, Chilvers, Hunt; Davies, Bishop, Ravenhill, Hubbins (Westcarr 60); Jervis (Harley 84), Smith (Lee 90).

Subs: Grof, Edwards, Westcarr, Burgess, O'Connell.

Referee: Phil Crossley.

Attendance: 6,434 (249).