Ayala sent off as Nottingham Forest suffer painful defeat at Watford
NOTTINGHAM Forest suffered a painful 2-0 defeat at Watford, after Daniel Ayala was sent off in bizarre circumstances in the first half at Vicarage Road.
The Spanish defender picked up a second yellow card in the 38th minute, just as Greg Halford was being prepared to replace him on the touchline.
Ayala had already been booked for a foul on Matej Vydra when he then hacked down Troy Deeney, leaving referee Neil Swarbick with little option but to show him the red card.
At point, a near post shot from Vyrda had already given the Hornets the lead – and the striker added his second within two minutes of Forest being reduced to ten men.
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Sean O'Driscoll's side improved after the break, but still rarely troubled the home side, who never looked troubled.
Forest made a bright start to the game and should have gone ahead in the second minute, after Simon Cox had forced a corner.
Andy Reid's curling delivery found an unmarked Danny Collins at the near post, but the skipper flashed his header across goal and narrowly the wrong side of the post.
There were early signs that this would be an end-to-end affair as Vydra drove in a powerful shot that looked to be goal bound before taking a deflection off Andy Reid that took it wide.
Forest were lively in possession and a flowing passing move led to Dan Harding finding space on the left but, from a good position, his cross was poor.
Elliott Ward made a perfectly timed challenge to deny Almen Abdi as the Watford man threatened to burst clear into the box.
But the visitors responded as Billy Sharp's clever flick found Simon Cox, who could not get his shot away before being closed down in the box.
Chris Cohen then fed Cox into space on the right flank, where the striker delivered a teasing ball into the centre. Sharp managed to connect as he slid in at the far post, but could not direct his shot on target.
Tommie Hoban then failed to guide the ball into touch and saw Cox steal the ball off his toes in a dangerous position inside the box, but the striker could not pick out Sharp in the centre.
Some poor defending then played a part as Watford took a 16th minute lead. Guy Moussi might have brought down Almen Abdi as he surged towards the box, but the Watford man was allowed to feed the ball into the path of Vydra, who drove a shot beyond Camp at his near post.
It was a powerful strike, but the keeper might have been disappointed to allow the ball past him – although can also point out the lack of protection he was provided.
Ayala was booked for the first time, for a clumsy foul on Vydra, as he hacked down the Watford man in the centre of the pitch.
Daniel Pudil then brought a smart save from Camp, who plunged quickly to his left to push away his powerful shot that was angled across goal.
Sharp then picked up an injury as he appeared to slip while challenging Manuel Almunia to get on the end of a Cohen free kick fired into the box. Both players went down in a heap, but it was the Forest striker who was left needing treatment.
Vydra then went down rather cynically in the centre of the pitch, claiming that he had been pulled back by Alaya, in an effort to get the Forest man a second yellow card.
Skipper Collins appeared to be indicating to the Forest bench that it would be wise to substitute the defender, as he was treading a fine line.
And, after Sharp had failed to profit from a half-chance with a header, Halford was stripping off and preparing to be introduced.
But Forest could not make the change in time and paid the price for not showing more urgency, as Ayala brought down Deeney as he surged towards the box and duly picked up his second yellow card.
It left Forest down to ten men in the38th minute and, two minutes after that, the game was effectively over, as Watford netted a second goal.
It was the same combination of players, as Abdi slotted Vydra in down the centre, where he had the pace to stay clear of the Forest defence, before slotting a calm finish beyond the onrushing Camp.
At half time, Forest did make a double change, with Adlene Guedioura and Halford coming on, in place of Harding and Reid.
Abdi had the ball in the net again in the 50th minute, but his joy was short-lived as his effort was rightly ruled out for offside.
Guedioura's urgency and drive were a welcome addition for Forest, who started the second half with some promise, albeit without carving out a clear cut opening.
The Algerian did fire a shot into the side netting from a free kick, after Cohen had been fouled by Cassetti right on the edge of the box – with the Watford man collecting a booking for his trouble.
Ward and Deeney were both booked following a bout of pushing and shoving in the box, as Forest attempted to take a corner.
Sharp sprinted clear when Hall failed to clear a deep ball from Halford, but the striker was for once guilty of poor finishing, as he failed to connect properly with a shot that bobbled well wide of the target.
Forest then picked up two bookings in the space of a minute, with Cox and then Sharp both punished for fouls.
They were given a let off by referee Swarbrick in the 82nd minute, however, when Halford appeared to have hauled down substitute Steve Beleck in the box. It looked like a clear penalty, but the referee booked the Watford player for simulation.
Camp produced a good save in the final stages after Deeney had skipped clear, pushing the striker's rising shot away around the post.
Watford: Almunia, Hall, Hogg, Deeney, Pudil, Vydra (Beleck 74), Abdi (Battacchio 85), Cassetti, Hoban, Chalobah (Mujangi Bia 90), Ekstrand. Subs: Bonham, Nueton, Yeates, Geijo.
Forest: Camp, Ayala, Ward, Collins, Hutton, Cohen, Moussi, Reid (Guedioura 45), Harding (Halford 45), Cox (Blackstock 79), Sharp. Subs: Darlow, Gillett, Lansbury, Majewski.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick.
Attendance: 15,143 (1,687)