Walsall 3-1 Bristol Rovers
Attendance: 6,029 (1,991 away)
After an equal first half, Rovers found themselves behind heading into the break, when Eoghan O'Connell fired the Saddlers into the lead in the 44th minute. The hosts scored two goals in five minutes in the second half, as they stretched their advantage to a three-goal lead, with Matty Taylor scoring a late consolation goal as Rovers were defeated at the Banks's Stadium.
Rovers boss Darrell Clarke made four changes heading into the game, with 'keeper Joe Lumley included in the starting XI for the fixture.
The hosts named an unchanged side to the team that defeated Sheffield United last Saturday.
The opening exchanges passed without either side creating a chance on goal, with the hosts delivering an early corner from the left that flashed across the six-yard area, in what was the closest opportunity that both sides had to forge an opportunity on goal within the opening fifteen minutes.
Rovers registered their first shot on goal when Billy Bodin held the ball up with some trickery on the edge of the area before shifting the ball to his right foot and producing a powerfully hit shot that swerved through the air and required Walsall goalkeeper Neil Etheridge to dive at full stretch to push his effort wide.
Bodin's opportunity signalled the start of a good spell of attacking play from Rovers, who won a free-kick when Matty Taylor was bundled down just yards outside the area. Both Lee Brown and Chris Lines stood over the set-piece, but it was Lines who delivered a low shot around the wall that was stopped by a diving save from Etheridge.
Following patient build-up by Rovers, which saw the visitors move the ball quickly down the right, Billy Bodin was able to direct a low cross into the area which was met by Lee Brown, but on the turn the defender couldn't keep his right-footed effort on target and his shot escalated over the crossbar.
Walsall scored the opening goal of the game on the brink of half-time, when a deep free-kick was launched into the Rovers area and was headed clear into the path of Eoghan O'Connell, who fired a close-range volley across goal to give the hosts the lead with their first shot on target.
Minutes after the restart Rovers came close to finding an equalising goal, when a fortunate rebound saw the ball drop kindly to Billy Bodin on the edge of the area, with the winger feeding the ball through to Ollie Clarke, but with a clear sight of goal, the midfielder dragged his shot wide of the target.
Rovers were forced into making a change early on in the second period when Billy Bodin picked up a knock in an ariel collision, which saw the introduction of Luke James.
With Rovers attacking the goal directly in front of the large contingent of travelling fans, Ollie Clarke drove forward and created an angle to square a pass across the face of goal that found Matty Taylor, but the striker directed his effort straight at the goalkeeper.
The home side doubled their advantage midway through the second half when substitute Simeon Jackson was played in behind the Rovers defence by a long-ball forward and the striker was able to lift the bouncing ball over the advancing Joe Lumley and into the back of the net.
Five minutes later Walsall added a third goal, with substitute Byron Moore being dispossessed on the edge of his own area, which allowed Joe Edwards the opportunity to run through on goal unchallenged and the defender slotted home a side-footed finish.
Matty Taylor netted a late goal in front of the Rovers supporters, with the striker rising the highest in the area to glance a deep cross from Lee Brown into the net from close range, but Rovers didn't follow up the goal with any further opportunities to reduce Walsall's lead late on in the game.
Next up for Rovers is the visit of Swindon Town to the Mem next Saturday.
Walsall: Neil Etheridge (G), Joe Edwards, James O'Connor, Jason McCarthy, Adam Chambers (C), Flo Cuvelier (79' George Dobson), Erhun Oztumer (76' Andreas Makkris), Isaiah Osbourne, Matt Preston, Amadou, Bakayoko (64' Simeon Jackson), Eoghan O'Connell.
Subs: Craig MacGillivray (G), Scott Laird, Kieron Morris, Kory Roberts,
Rovers: Joe Lumley (G), Daniel Leadbitter (54' Byron Moore), Lee Brown, Tom Lockyer (C), James Clarke, Stuart Sinclair, Ollie Clarke, Chris Lines, Billy Bodin (48' Luke James), Rory Gaffney (73' Ryan Broom), Matty Taylor.
Substitutes: Kieran Hodges (G), Jamie Lucas, Joe Partington, Byron Moore, Lee Mansell.