Rotherham 5 Walsall 1 - Report and pictures
A disastrous first-half performance ensured Walsall’s problems on the road continued as they fell to a 5-1 loss at Rotherham.
The Saddlers, without a win away from the Banks’s Stadium this calendar year, conceded four goals in just 18 minutes as Paul Warne’s side ran out convincing victors at the New York Stadium.
The rout started when Lee Frecklington produced a stunning volley to open the scoring in the 13th minute.
Former Shrewsbury winger Jon Taylor then netted twice from close range to increase The Millers lead.
Frecklington then grabbed his second of the game in the 31st minute when he headed home a Will Vaulks cross.
Amadou Bakayoko pulled a goal back for the Saddlers shortly after the interval when he stabbed the ball home from close range following a corner.
But Frecklington went on to clinch his hat-trick in the closing stages when he headed home a cross from ex-Saddler Anthony Forde.
In naming his starting line-up, boss Whitney made one change from the team that slipped to a 2-1 loss at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Sticking with a 3-4-1-2 system, Tyler Roberts came in for his full debut with Daniel Agyei having to make-do with a place on the bench.
It meant Erhun Oztumer continued in the number 10 role with Bakyoko joining Roberts up front and Luke Leahy and Nicky Devlin operating as wing-backs.
Rotherham lined up in a 4-5-1 system that saw Ipswich loanee Kieffer Moore start as a lone frontman. There was no place in the starting XI for ex-Saddlers Forde and Richard O’Donnell who were named amongst the substitutes.
The game had an end to end feel right from kick-off with both teams pressing forward in a bid to grab an early advantage.
But in the blink of an eye, the Saddlers found themselves three-goals down following a devastating display of attacking football.
Rotherham took the lead in spectacular fashion when Frecklington produced a stunning volley from 25-yards that dipped over Mark Gillespie and into the net.
Then a frantic 60 seconds spell saw Walsall come a whisker away from pulling level only to fall even further behind.
After Joe Edwards’ corner bobbled around the Rotherham box, Oztumer managed to loft the ball to Bakayoko who saw a header cleared off the line by goalscorer Frecklington.
And incredibly the Millers went straight up the other end with Ryan Williams whipping in a cross that Taylor headed home – with the goal arriving in the same minute as Bakayoko’s miss.
Warne’s side were now buoyant and they made it three-nil midway through the half following some calamitous Saddlers defending.
Will Vaulks long throw was scuffed towards goal by Moore. Gillespie and Devlin then both made a hash of clearing the ball and that allowed Taylor to prod from just a yard-out for his second.
Walsall’s travelling fans were now singing for their money back – with their chants greeted with sympathetic applause from the home crowd.
But things got even worse Whitney’s men when Frecklington grabbed his second of the game by powerfully heading home another right-wing cross from Vaulks cross.
With his side being overrun, Whitney made a change in the 32nd minute with Florent Cuvelier introduced for Shaun Donnellan as the Saddlers switched to a flat back four.
It was the hosts who continued to look the more dangerous though with Williams twice coming close to making to five as the half-time whistle approached.
First the winger burst into the box before seeing a low drive kept out by the legs of Gillespie.
Then the keeper made an even better stop just moments later when Moore’s header sat up perfectly for the former Barnsley winger.
With the entire goal to aim at, Williams looked to smash home a volley. But his effort was too close to the keeper with Gillespie standing tall to make an impressive stop.
Whitney made his second change at the interval with Kieron Morris replacing Oztumer.
And with some stern words in their ear, the Saddlers came flying out the blocks at the start of the second half and quickly reduced their arrears when Bakayoko stabbed home an Edwards’ corner.
With a glimmer of hope, Walsall started to look dangerous with Roberts and Bakayoko beginning to link up well.
But the hosts continued to look dangerous and they came close to extending their lead further when Moore whistled a strike past the post from 20-yards.
Whitney made his third change with 20 minutes remaining – Aygei replacing Bakayoko.
And the Burnley loanee almost made an instant impact with the forward bursting into the box before hitting a fierce drive narrowly wide.
Rotherham responded with Darren Potter side-footing over from 12-yards following a corner.
And they went onto grab a fifth in the closing stages with man-of-the match Frecklington securing his hat-trick.
Again the goal came from a right-wing cross with substitute Forde whipping in a ball that the midfielder headed home.
Rotherham: Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood, Frecklington, Taylor (Forde 71), Potter, Towell (Newell 82), Ihiekwe, Williams, Moore (Ball 61).
Subs not used: O’Donnell, Ajayi, Purrington, Yates.
Walsall: Gillespie, Guthrie, Donnellan (Cuvelier 32), Wilson, Leahy, Devlin, Chambers, Oztumer (Morris 46), Roberts, Bakayoko (Agyei 71).
Subs not used: L. Roberts, K. Roberts, Ismail, Jackson.