Night Twelve of the Premier League Darts could be a seminal moment in the race for the title.
It’s not just a titanic tussle between the top two that the Cardiff faithful will be enjoying. This week’s action sees three other games which will all have a say in the playoff race. Premier League Darts hopes and dreams could be built up, or crushed, in the Welsh capital.
Two players at an important crossroads are Mensur Suljovic and Daryl Gurney, who meet first on Thursday evening. The pair are both on 12 points, with just a tiny swing in leg difference separating them. What happens here won’t confirm or completely scupper a top four spot. But with every point proving precious, now is not the time to lose ground.
Following a run of three straight wins, Gurney is now winless in his last two. How he didn’t claim both points against James Wade, nobody is quite sure. Suljovic, meanwhile, was poor in Liverpool, losing to Gerwyn Price. It was only three weeks ago that the pair last met in the Premier League Darts; Gurney comfortably came out on top. If the Gentle puts in another frustratingly meek performance – games which he produces much too often – then the Northern Irishman will fancy this.
The big tie of the night is between the runaway league leaders. Michael van Gerwen is used to steamrolling his way to the top. This time, he’s not having it his own way. He hasn’t helped himself, mind – the odd poor performance has always come just as he builds momentum. A superb win over Michael Smith in Liverpool has got that momentum back, and Mighty Mike can’t afford to lose it now.
Rob Cross was well fancied to beat the world number one in Dublin. Instead, he folded, narrowly avoiding a humiliating whitewash. Since that fateful night, the 2018 world champion has won seven out of eight. The odd one out – that stunning Rotterdam loss to Mensur Suljovic – should have been a victory as well. It has taken harsh lessons and hard work, but Cross is back in a position where he can usurp van Gerwen. Win or draw, and he stays top with four games left. Lose, and he has to rebuild all over again.
Smith’s last chance
Even though he’s only four points off the playoffs, it feels like Michael Smith‘s ship has sailed. It’s a massive disappointment for the 2018 Premier League Darts runner-up. The Bully Boy has taken to beating himself up after chastening experiences, to the point where it doesn’t look like he’s enjoying the game. If so, it’s hard to see him motivating himself to battle back into contention.
Gerwyn Price can sympathise. A year ago it was the Welshman who sank without trace. Now his comeback is complete. Victory last week over Mensur Suljovic means he’s in the tentative playoff spots. An appearance in front of a vocal home support in Cardiff couldn’t have come at a better time. The crowd will be behind him, rather than on his back, which may make for a strange experience. It remains to be seen whether the Iceman can utilise support to galvanise him as much as scorn seems to.
We know that form is fickle. Gerwyn Price was the world’s in-form player at one point this year, before a mini-collapse. Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen went through the same. Now James Wade is the flavour of the week. He’ll be desperate to keep it that way for a while longer – until the World Matchplay, at least. Sustaining his form would also land him a first Premier League Darts playoff spot since 2013. The Machine will be aware that last week’s performance against Daryl Gurney wasn’t good enough, despite achieving peak Wadeyness and grabbing a draw with a massively inferior average.
Peter Wright has suffered a dismal Premier League Darts campaign, just like last year. This isn’t a great time for him to be facing a man who has just won three out of the last four floor tournaments. Yet it was around this time last year that Snakebite rallied himself and stunned Michael van Gerwen in Rotterdam. The world number three is obviously good enough to beat anyone he faces. The only problem is he needs to prove it.
Click here for more information about the Premier League Darts, including all the fixtures and the prize fund breakdown.
Night Twelve schedule
Mensur Suljovic v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright v James Wade
Author: Ed McCosh