Rochdale were well-deserved 3-0 winners over Walsall when the two sides met at the Banks’s Stadium on Tuesday night.
Jimmy McNulty’s header opened the scoring early on in the first-half, before Ian Henderson doubled the lead inside the final 20 minutes.
Josh Lillis saved a Erhun Oztumer penalty to keep the two goal cushion, before Alex Dobre scored a wonderful solo goal on his debut to round off an excellent performance and result for Keith Hill’s men.
Hill made one change to the side that lined-up against Tottenham Hotspur six days ago, as Bradden Inman replaced Mark Kitching, who was named on the bench.
Rochdale opened the scoring in the 16th minute, when McNulty headed home his first goal for the club after rising highest to meet a Bradden Inman corner.
His last career goal came back in August 2014 in the League Cup, while he last netted in a league campaign in January 2012, scoring for Barnsley against Millwall in the Championship.
In a fiercely contested first half, there were several opportunities for both sides.
Shortly after Dale had taken the lead, Luke Leahy struck an effort across goal and wide of the upright, while Harrison McGahey had to be alert on the line to steer away a dangerous ball across the goal mouth by Nicky Devlin.
On the half hour, Julien Ngoy’s powerful drive from the edge of the area stung Josh Lillis’ palms, before Rochdale came close in quick succession.
Matty Done saw a strike across goal deflected narrowly wide, and from the resulting corner, Ryan Delaney headed just inches wide.
End to end, Lillis beat away a shot from Kieron Morris and then got down to his left to keep out a George Dobson shot from distance.
Before the half was out, Dale came close to adding a second, but Callum Camps’ cheeky back heel from a low Inman delivery came crashing off the feet of Joe Rafferty a couple of yards from the line.
HT: WALSALL 0-1 ROCHDALE
After the break, Rochdale looked comfortable during the opening exchanges of the second half and had a couple of opportunities to extend their lead before going on to deservedly double their advantage.
Henderson beat the offside trap to find Stephen Humphrys, who despite having time to take the ball down, couldn’t stop his effort from rising, as he hit high over the bar.
McNulty picked out Henderson with a sublime pass a short time later, and after delivering into the area, Humphrys played in Cannon, who saw an effort deflected behind.
In the 56th minute, the on-loan Fulham forward was replaced by Steven Davies, as Dale made their first substitution of the game.
And Rochdale’s second goal came in the 70th minute, when skipper Henderson curled an effort beyond Roberts, to net his 16th goal of the season.
Dobre replaced Inman soon after, making his first appearance for the club since joining on loan from Bournemouth during the January transfer window.
Walsall’s Erhun Oztumer scored from a spot-kick on Saturday in the Saddlers’ win over Southend United, but he couldn’t repeat the feat against Keith Hill’s side at the Banks’s Stadium, with Lillis keeping him out from 12-yards. The hosts had been awarded a penalty after Delaney was adjudged to have taken down substitute Amadou Bakayoko.
With three minutes remaining, Rochdale rounded off an excellent victory in style, when substitute Dobre pirouetted around his marker, dropped his shoulder and struck past Roberts from 20-yards with a stunning solo goal.
FT: WALSALL 0-3 ROCHDALE