Forget the scoreline, it wasn’t that close writes Matt Maher.
On a soggy night in Wiltshire, Dean Smith’s Walsall simply pulverised Swindon and in doing so catapulted themselves into the top six at the expense of the hosts.
The bare statistics will tell you two goals from Ashley Hemmings, the first one of the finest strikes you will see all season, either side of Sam Mantom’s effort early in the second half earned the three points.
But that tells only half the story.
Were it not for a sublime display by home keeper Wes Foderingham, the score would have been far wider.
Nile Ranger’s late consolation for the hosts cut the deficit to two goals but it could have been 10, such was the difference between the sides.
If the win over Wolves and the draw at Leyton Orient didn’t make the rest of League One sit up and take notice of Smith’s side, this result will.
Swindon had only dropped two points at home all season and went into the game looking to extend a run of four straight wins. Come the finish, Mark Cooper and his players looked shell-shocked. They shouldn’t have been, as Smith’s side had already proved they are one of the division’s formidable opponents on the road.
For the Saddlers this performance mirrored that at Colchester in terms of dominance, the difference being in this one they found the net.
It seems strange that only five days ago Smith was defending his forward line after fans complained of a lack of goals. Now they’ve hit five in four days.
Smith’s decision to replace Romaine Sawyers with midfielder Nicky Featherstone may have been considered brave in regard to how well the former had played against Stevenage on Saturday. But the switch to the three-man midfield allowed the Saddlers to boss the middle of the park – his planning couldn’t have been better.
Featherstone repaid his manager’s faith with an excellent performance, one which was matched by Mantom and Adam Chambers.
Above all it was an excellent team display and though keeper Richard O’Donnell will be angry at the momentary hesitation which allowed Ranger to pounce late on, he redeemed himself with a superb save from the striker in stoppage time.
The fixture list does not get any easier for the Saddlers as Orient-conquering Coventry await on Saturday.
But playing like this, you feel they are capable of anything.
From the very early stages it seemed Smith had made the right decision to recall Featherstone, as his side bossed the midfield and at times threatened to overrun their hosts.
While several visiting players stood out, for the home side there was only one star man and that was Foderingham. The keeper pulled off superb saves to deny Mantom, Westcarr,Baxendale and Hemmings, though there was nothing he could do about the latter’s opening goal on 17 minutes.
A Baxendale corner found its way to the far post and, when James Chambers’ volley was cleared to Hemmings on the edge of the box, he lashed a first-time shot through the crowd and into the net.
Swindon’s chances were limited to an acrobatic Ranger effort, which was probably heading wide anyway before being hacked clear by Westcarr, and an Alex Pritchard free-kick which was deflected behind.
There was a sense the hosts had rather got away with it but the Saddlers were in no mood to sit back and doubled their advantage within two minutes of the restart when Mantom pounced on a loose ball, exchanged passes with Westcarr and then beat Foderingham at the second attempt.
The game should have been put to bed long before Hemmings added the second with 12 minutes remaining but Foderingham somehow managed to keep out a Featherstone piledriver, which looked destined for the top corner, while Mantom’s shot hit the bar.
Ranger did at least pull one back when he capitalised after O’Donnell had dithered in coming for a cross and almost added a second in time added on when the visiting keeper brilliantly kept out his point-blank header.
But it was too little, too late from Town who must have wondered just what had hit them.