WALSALL v ROCHDALE
THE SADDLERS stepped out for the first of two successive home games as we locked horns with Rochdale.
After a perfectly-observed minute's silence for Albert McPherson, it was Walsall who started on the front-foot as Anthony Forde went close from inside the area early on whilst Jordy Hiwula, making his first start, buzzed around as he looked to make a favourable first impression on the Banks's Stadium faithful.
The Saddlers took the lead on 13 minutes when Forde forced a corner which he himself delivered onto the head of James O'Connor as the ball found its way into the net.
The next raid saw Hiwula make a purposeful burst before getting in a strike that was pushed away by the 'keeper.
It was 2-0 on 19 minutes when Romaine Sawyers carved open the visitors' defence to set Forde away and he stayed cool to slot home.
More was to follow soon afterwards as Ben Purkiss made progress on the right and he found Adam Chambers who in turn fed Hiwula and he turned the ball home for his second goal in as many games to make it 3-0.
It prompted a double change from our visitors as Walsall caused them all sorts of problems in the opening 25 minutes.
There was a smart save from Richard O'Donnell to deny Andrew Cannon's cross-cum-shot as Rochdale looked for a way back in the game before the break.
At the other end, Forde cut inside only for his goal-bound strike to be blocked by the Dale defence.
O'Donnell did well again at the end of the half as he acrobatically tipped over Calvin Andrews' header. It meant that we went in at the break three goals to the good.
There was a change at the break as James Baxendale replaced Anthony Forde.
The Saddlers were slow out of the blocks at the start of the second period as the visitors started to get a hold of the game. They were rewarded when Peter Vincenti fired home on 55 minutes and this was followed by a second goal as Olly Lancashire bundled home following a goalmouth scramble.
Chances for Walsall were at a premium with an effort from Jordan Cook the only attempt of note in the opening 20 minutes of the second period.
A long-range effort from Cain went well wide on 68 minutes before shortly afterwards, Rico Henry came on to replace Cook.
Andy Taylor travelled a long way only for his low strike to go wide of the mark.
There was a late change as Michael Cain was replaced by Matt Preston for his first taste of senior action as the visitors went close in stoppage time.
The Saddlers managed to hold on to claim all three points in a 3-2 win.