A ruthless Fulham side totally dismantled Walsall with a comprehensive victory at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

The wind and the rain that enveloped this historic ground didn’t deter Kevin Keegan’s side from playing their attractive pass and move football. The home side put Walsall on the back foot from the outset but were made to wait until half an hour into the game. Million-pound man Paul Peschisolido tricked his way past a couple of Walsall defenders and cracked a lovely right-footed strike into the bottom corner.

The visitors might have levelled at the start of the second period when they produced their best spell of the contest. Ian Roper – who replaced the influential Richard Green – rattled the base of the post with a powerful drive after excellent approach play from Clive Platt and Jamie Lambert. Just as the Sadlers seemed to be putting Fulham after pressure, they fell asleep at a set-piece when Steve Hayward’s excellent corner was headed home by an unmarked Kit Symons.

To their great credit, the visitors kept fighting. They saw Darren Wrack strike chalked off for offside before halving their arrears when Chris Marsh’s cross was deflected past his own goalkeeper by the unfortunate Gus Uhlenbeek. Platt spurned a great chance to equalise from close range and Walsall were punished when Hayward curled in a fabulous free-kick into the top corner to give the Whites’ some breathing space.

Substitute Geoff Horsfield, a £300,000 purchase from Halifax, then marked his Fulham debut in the grand manner: opening his account for his new club with a delicious chip over James Walker after racing onto a through ball from Hayward. Walsall’s miserable day was rounded off when midfielder Bjarni Larusson was sent off for a second bookable offence with three minutes to play after arguing with referee Keith Hill about the award of a free-kick.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Uhlenbeek, Brevett, Symons, Coleman; Bracewell (Smith 85), Morgan, Hayward, W. Collins; Peschisolido (Horsfield 72), Lehmann. Subs (not used): Beardsley.

BOOKED: Lehmann.

GOALS: Peschisolido (30), Symons (62), Hayward (75), Horsfield (83).

WALSALL (4-5-1): Walker; Roper, Viveash, Pointon, Marsh; Larusson, Lambert (Watson 80), Brissett, Wrack, Keates; Platt. Subs (not used): Gaddy, Porter.

BOOKED: Larusson.

SENT OFF: Larusson.

GOAL: Marsh (71).

REFEREE: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire).