Walsall 3-2 Rochdale

Walsall survived a second-half comeback from League One play-off rivals Rochdale before securing all three points at the Banks's Stadium.

James O'Connor nodded in the first goal from winger Anthony Forde's corner.

Forde notched a long-range second before on-loan Jordy Hiwula made it 3-0 after 22 minutes, but Rochdale mounted their fightback after the break.

From Spotland to Wembley
Johnstone's Paint Trophy finalists Walsall started their run to Wembley (having had a first round bye) with a 1-0 second-round win back in early October - three weeks after being beaten 4-0 at Spotland in the league.

Peter Vincenti pulled one back for the Dale, then Ashley Eastham's close-range shot set up a nervous end for Walsall.

Walsall were affected by the half-time loss of the injured Forde, while Jack O'Connell, who signed for a third loan spell at Rochdale earlier on Tuesday, featured for Keith Hill's side as part of a first-half double substitution.

The Saddlers move above their opponents into 10th place, just three points off the play-off places, while Rochdale slip to 12th.

Walsall manager Dean Smith told BBC WM:

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Dean Smith on Walsall v Rochdale

"It feels a little disappointing because, after going three goals up, we were hanging on a bit, but the aim of the game is to score more than the opposition, we've scored three goals at home, got three points and we've beaten a good team.

"We were outstanding in the opening 30 minutes. We broke well, created chances and everything went to plan. Our two wide players were fantastic but they were both struggling with tight groins at half-time and Anthony Forde had to be replaced.

"We were too loose on the ball at the start of the second half and it encouraged them. We were sloppy for their first goal and it gave them a lift as we started to look nervy.

Rochdale manager Keith Hill told BBC Radio Manchester:

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Hill on Walsall v Rochdale

"The lads know that they belong in League One as a team, but we looked at the whole picture and have seen an unbelievable opportunity.

"That opportunity is still here because we have 19 games and we're really looking forward to those.

"Our mission achievement this season is to retain League One status and building - and we've got to stick to that."

As It Stood

1Bristol City28187353233061
3MK Dons29168560273356
6Sheff Utd2712693631542
14Notts County29108113135-438
16Port Vale30106143745-836
24Leyton Orient2868143544-926
View full League One table

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