SHEFF UTD 2-0 WALSALLTwo goals in five first-half minutes from Chris Basham and Billy Sharp condemned Walsall to a disappointing defeat at Sheffield United.
Basham's 31st-minute header put the Blades ahead before Sharp volleyed home a quick-fire second to seal a comfortable win.
Head coach Jon Whitney made three changes to the side that beat Colchester 2-1 a fortnight ago.
Everton loanee Matthew Pennington was handed his Saddlers debut in place of centre-back James O’Connor, who missed out due to a calf injury.
Fit-again captain Adam Chambers and midfielder Reece Flanagan also came in, while Liam Kinsella and Jordy Hiwula dropped to the bench.
The Bramall Lane contest started slowly, with both teams cancelling each other out in a cagey opening 15 minutes.
Che Adams registered the game’s first meaningful attempt on 17 minutes, when he turned and drilled a right-footed effort wide from 25 yards.
Although neither team were dominating, Sheffield United were looking more dangerous.
Midway through the first half, Rynn Flynn broke into the box and fed Matt Done but his placed attempt was parried by Walsall keeper Neil Etheridge.
The Blades broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark, when Done’s inviting left-wing cross was headed home by Basham at the far post.
With confidence now coursing through their veins, Nigel Adkins’ men doubled their lead six minutes later.
Goalscorer Basham turned provider as he tricked his way past Rico Henry out wide and delivered a cross towards Flynn in the middle.
The ball ran through for Sharp, who controlled on his chest before smashing a powerful right-footed volley into the corner of the net.
The home side were now rampant and continued to push forward, with Basham firing a fierce long-range strike wide of Etheridge’s right-hand upright.
HALF-TIME: SHEFF UTD 2-0 WALSALL
Walsall made a half-time substitution with Hiwula replacing Flanagan.
United remained the greater attacking force, with Basham firing a dipping 20-yard volley just over after Coutts’ cross was only half cleared.
The Saddlers looked to force their way back into the contest and began to pose more a threat.
Andy Taylor’s corner dropped for Bradshaw but his effort was smothered bravely by Blades keeper George Long.
Bradshaw, who earned his first international cap for Wales on Monday, then saw an effort blocked by a defender after Mantom’s pass was dummied by Hiwula.
Mantom’s attempt then bobbled through for Long to gather as the visitors tried in vain to reduce the deficit.
With Walsall making little headway going forward, Whitney made a double switch with Forde and Milan Lalkovic replacing Taylor and Mantom.
Forde was involved on 79 minutes, when he latched onto Henry’s pass before dragging a weak left-footed attempt wide from outside the box.
The Irishman then struck the wall with a free-kick, before whipping in a deflected set-piece which just evaded Bradshaw at the back post.
Pennington glanced over in added time before Bradshaw saw a tame header held by Long, as the Blades comfortably saw the game out.
FULL-TIME: SHEFF UTD 2-0 WALSALL
Team: Etheridge, Demetriou, Taylor (Forde 74’), Pennington, Downing, Chambers, Mantom (Lalkovic 74’), Bradshaw, Sawyers, Henry, Flanagan (Hiwula 46’).
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Preston, Morris, Kinsella.
Attendance: 19,214 (1,072 Walsall supporters).