DANNY SCHOFIELD earned a standing ovation after marking his last Town appearance at the Galpharm with a goal.
And Andy Booth celebrated his new one-year contract with a trademark header to set the seal on a convincing victory.
With new management team Stan Ternent and Ronnie Jepson watching from the directors’ box, Walsall were never really in it as Gerry Murphy’s charges chalked up a third straight win and fourth successive clean sheet under the caretaker boss.
“It’s a case of putting round pegs in round holes really,” explained Murphy, who makes it all sound so simple.
It makes you wonder where Town, who remain 12th in the table, might have been had they switched to three centre-backs earlier in the season.
Only once did the Midlanders, who were under the guidance of Jimmy Mullen after Richard Money’s resignation as manager earlier in the week, really threaten.
That was in the 69th minute, when former Barnsley midfielder Kevin Betsy brought a good save from Matt Glennon with a well-struck shot from the edge of the area.
Mullen strung five across the centre to match Town, but in a slow burner of a match, the home team – with James Berrett back in the holding role and Jon Worthington, who returned from suspension, tackling as though his life depended on it – were far more effective.
They had the lion’s share of the possession, and chances.
While Walsall’s three first-half efforts, from Michael Dobson, Alex Nicholls and Betsy, all went wide, their goalkeeper Clayton Ince pulled off three decent saves before finally being beaten.
First the Trinidad and Tobago international denied Booth as he headed goalwards from Joe Skarz’s 31st-minute cross (the 18-year-old was preferred to Robbie Williams at left wing-back).
Less than 60 seconds later, he reached high to pluck Rob Page’s long-range effort out of the air.
Then he stretched out a seemingly telescopic arm to push Andy Holdsworth’s 35th-minute shot over the bar, Town’s right wing-back having been set up by a neat through ball from Michael Collins.
Just as it looked as though Town’s luck was out Schofield struck with 40 minutes and three seconds on the clock.
It was a lovely finish from the long-serving 28-year-old, who will be seeking pastures new in the close-season.
When Anthony Gerrard’s kicked clearance only went as far as fellow centre-back Nathan Clarke, the ball was returned to the Walsall half and collected by Holdsworth, who threaded a pass between two defenders and into Schofield’s path.
The stand-in striker drew Ince before netting with an angled shot into the keeper’s right-hand corner.
That’s career goal number 46 for Schofield, who must have had a lump in his throat when the home fans in a 9,969 crowd rose as one to salute him as he was replaced by 18-year-old Danny Broadbent in the 80th minute.
By that stage Town were two to the good and pretty much coasting, the second having arrived in the 56th minute when Worthington received Skarz’s pass and picked out the head of Booth, who made no mistake with a header into the bottom left-hand corner.
That’s 176 goals in his career and 142 for Town, 12 behind the club’s second-highest all-time scorer Jimmy Glazzard.
The strike all but ended Walsall’s hopes of a comeback, and the only disappointment was that Town didn’t add to their tally against a side who put four without reply past them at Bescot back in October.
Booth had a 67th-minute opening from Berrett’s lay-off, but bent his shot wide, while centre-back David Mirfin looped put the ball over the bar from close range after Page headed Skarz’s 76th-minute corner into the danger zone.
Broadbent’s 88th-minute shot from another neat Berrett pass was blocked by Ince before Collins volleyed narrowly wide in time added on.
Now Town will aim to close a frustrating campaign by putting down a marker for the next one with a fourth straight win down at already-relegated Luton on Saturday.
Good save from Kevin Betsy ensured his 100th Town game was celebrated by a fourth straight clean sheet.
Full of enthusiasm and energy on his return to right wing-back. Set-up Danny Schofield’s goal nicely.
Preferred to Robbie Williams in the left wing-back berth and responded with a very competent display.
Not a natural left footer, but continues to look solid on that side of the three centre-back line.
Another bright display. His interception header started the move which led to Town’s opening goal.
Never looked flustered defensively and tested Walsall’s rearguard with some towering headers.
Back from a knee injury and really caught the eye with some steely tackles and excellent passes.
There was no end-of-season feel about his display with tackles as crunching as ever. Made Andy Booth’s goal.
Looks to be really enjoying his advanced midfield role. Got forward well and played some deft passes.
Tested Walsall throughout and notched his ninth goal of the campaign with a trademark header.
Took his goal really well and got a great ovation from the supporters on his last home Town appearance.
Danny Broadbent for Schofield, 79mins; Tom Clarke for Worthington, 80mins. Not used: Robbie Williams, Luke Beckett, Alex Smithies.