Steve Eyre hailed man-of-the-match Jake Kean after the goalkeeper secured Rochdale a 3-1 shootout win in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
The second-round tie ended 1-1 after 90 minutes, David Ball firing Rochdale ahead early in the second half before Kevan Hurst levelled things up.
But the hosts proved superior in the shoot-out, with Ball, Ashley Grimes and Jason Kennedy converting, while Saddlers pair Richard Taundry and Kevan Hurst saw their attempts saved by on-loan Blackburn keeper Kean and Ryan Jarvis blazed over the crossbar.
Eyre said: "As we were preparing for the penalty shoot-out we dangled a bit of a carrot in front of Jake by telling him he'd nearly been our man of the match.
"To be fair that was a little bit tongue in cheek because he'd been excellent during the game. But when we told him he had a chance to nail down the man-of-the-match award it seemed to spur him on even more and he's made two top-quality saves to win the accolade hands down.
"Credit to both teams, they both played as though they had something to prove. We put a few lads in who have not been featuring and are desperate to do well and they worked ever so hard."