The Saddlers suffered defeat on the road as four goals in the first half was enough to see Sutton United claim all three points in Sky Bet League Two.
Mat Sadler made three changes to the side that gained a point in midweek against MK Dons. Jamille Matt, Tom Knowles and Danny Johnson returned to the starting XI with Isaac Hutchinson, Freddie Draper and Ross Tierney dropping to the bench.
It was an eventful start to proceedings in South London and the first meaningful opportunity of the match fell to the Saddlers on 3 minutes. A short corner from Knowles saw the ball eventually played back to Liam Gordon who did well to drive into space before setting sights at goal with a low curled effort towards the near post which had Dean Bouzanis flat-footed on his feet but the effort went just past the post.
Moments later and Sutton took the lead with their first chance at goal. The hosts won a free-kick just outside the area and with Sam Hart and Omari Patrick standing over the ball, responsibility fell to the former Carlisle United forward and he struck his effort into the back of the net to give the U’s an early lead.
Sadler’s side continued to plug away and almost levelled the contest on 11 minutes. A floated ball from the right by Knowles found Johnson in space and he did well to control the ball from in the air and adjust his body before setting himself up for an effort on goal but his strike lacked conviction as it eventually fell into the path of Bouzanis and he collected with ease.
Straight up the other end and within seconds the hosts doubled their lead. A long-throw sailed into the box and the ball fell kindly to Harry Smith who fiercely struck home on the volley from close range to put the hosts in the driving seat, much to the delight of the U’s supporters who hadn’t seen a victory in the league since the opening day against Notts County.
The hosts were hungry for more and almost made it three on 14 minutes. A slick counter attack saw a neat exchange eventually come out to the right-hand side where Josh Coley picked up the ball and came back inside on his left before curling an effort towards goal but it sailed just over the crossbar.
The Saddlers continued to find opportunities to halve the deficit and rued a glorious opportunity on 19 minutes. A dangerous ball into the box from Gordon came off a Sutton man and fell kindly into the path of Matt but the forward was unable to capitalise with his effort as Bouzanis eventually claimed the effort and another chance came and went.
Shortly before the half-hour mark and Sutton extended their lead. A dangerous ball from the right-hand side managed to clear traffic in the box and reach the far-post where Smith latched on to guide the ball towards goal and a deflection off Joe Riley sent the ball in the opposite direction of Owen Evans and trickled over the line.
Sutton grabbed a fourth in the final stages of the first half with a pin-point header from Smith via another cross, this time via Christian N’Guessan and the hosts went into the break in complete control.
Sadler made an alteration at the break as Hutchinson came on in place of Matt and the visitors made a bright start to the half knowing they had work to do to stand any chance of getting back into the game. On 49 minutes Oisin McEntee lifted a ball out to the left where it was picked up by Aramide Oteh, who spotted Gordon making a run and he set the ball back to the full-back who struck at goal first-time but his effort trickled into the side netting.
Smith, in search of a hat-trick for the hosts, did well to rise high to a looped cross via N’Guessan on 70 minutes but his header went wide of the post as both sides created their own opportunities throughout the second half but did little to trouble either goalkeeper overall.
Sadler made further alterations during the half as Douglas James-Taylor, Tierney and Harvey Griffiths (making his first appearance for the Saddlers) came on in place of Knowles, Donervon Daniels and Johnson but in the end it was an afternoon that belonged to Sutton as they claimed all three points at the VBS Community Stadium.