ROCHDALE 4-0 WALSALL
Walsall crashed to their heaviest defeat of the League One season after being thrashed at rampant Rochdale.
First-half strikes from Oliver Rathbone and Reuben Noble-Lazarus put dominant Dale in control, before a second-half double from substitute Steven Davies rounded off a comprehensive win.
The match started slowly, although Walsall did have the ball in the net on 12 minutes when Joe Edwards volleyed into the far corner - but he had already been penalised for handball.
The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock in an uneventful opening half-hour came on 25 minutes, with the chance falling to Rochdale.
Scott Tanser reached the byline and delivered a deep cross to the far post which Joseph Thompson, under pressure from Franck Moussa, turned onto the outside of the upright.
Walsall responded with captain Adam Chambers – without a professional goal in over five years – steering a right-footed effort wide of target.
Dale went straight down the other end, Joe Rafferty crossing low into the middle but a stretching Thompson couldn’t convert.
Keith Hill’s side – chasing a ninth consecutive home win in all competitions - were beginning to find their rhythm.
And on 32 minutes they went ahead, Rathbone neatly exchanging passes with Thompson before finishing powerfully past Neil Etheridge from close range for his first senior goal.
With their tails up, the home side – and Rathbone - went close to a quick-fire second, but the striker’s near-post header from Rafferty’s accurate cross was pushed over by Etheridge.
It was all one-way traffic and Dale doubled their lead four minutes before half-time.
Nathanial Mendez-Laing’s pull-back caused consternation in the visiting defence, with Noble-Lazarus left completely free to slam the ball home.
Half-time: Rochdale 2-0 Walsall
Jon Whitney made a change at the break, bringing on Amadou Bakayoko for Erhun Oztumer as Walsall reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
However, the second-half continued in a similar vein to the first, with Rochdale dominating possession and creating all the chances.
Noble-Lazarus combined smartly with Matthew Lund before firing straight at Etheridge from 18 yards, and a Rafferty volley was deflected behind.
With the Saddlers struggling to get a foothold, Whitney introduced Flo Cuvelier for Josh Ginnelly midway through the second period.
But a bad night for Walsall got even worse on 76 minutes.
The onrushing Etheridge brought down Mendez-Laing inside the box and substitute Davies stepped up to confidently dispatch the resulting penalty.
Rampant Rochdale should have made it 4-0 moments later, when Ian Henderson collected Thompson’s back-heel, stepped inside Kevin Toner but fired wide with the goal at his mercy.
The Saddlers’ misery was compounded in stoppage time.
Jason McCarthy's short back pass was pounced upon by Davies, who rounded Etheridge and found the net from 25 yards.
Full-time: Rochdale 4-0 Walsall
Team: Etheridge, McCarthy, Toner, Preston, Laird, Chambers, Edwards, Moussa, Ginnelly (Cuvelier 65’), Oztumer (Bakayoko 45’), Jackson (Makris 78’).
Subs not used: MacGillivray, O’Connor, Dobson, Kinsella.