After a hectic weekend in Minehead, we’re heading way up north for a Premier League Darts spectacular.
The Premier League participants will all be hurting after failing to win the UK Open. A chance to get back on track comes in Aberdeen. And what better way to start than a repeat of one of the Minehead semi-finals?
Rob Cross kept up the impressive quirk of always losing to the UK Open winner. He’s hardly going to consider that a consolation for losing to Nathan Aspinall in the final, and averaging short of 85. In the end, tiredness took its toll. The Premier League is notorious for draining stamina, so this might be a defining moment at this stage in Voltage’s season. He takes on Michael Smith, whose fortitude deserves massive praise. Bully Boy spent the weekend flitting between Butlin’s and hospital (he has yet to be asked which was a more fun experience), and only limped to the semi-finals in a physical sense. Even in spite of defeat to Cross, we learned a bit more about Smith in Minehead. He might fancy turning the tables in Aberdeen.
Daryl Gurney was toppled by Smith at the UK Open. He was also trounced in the Premier League last week by Cross. The Northern Irishman needs a morale boost, and quickly. With two wins and two defeats under his belt, his result in Scotland may be a tipping point. The problem is that he faces James Wade, a man who kills dreams with aplomb, and more than a dash of satisfaction. Michael van Gerwen’s hopes of an unbeaten season were shattered in Exeter by a smirking Machine. Now he has the chance to top the league – depending on what van Gerwen, Cross and Gerwyn Price do.
Suljovic stat attack
Speaking of Gerwyn Price, he’s on third against Mensur Suljovic. The Iceman will be kicking himself after feeling the heat at the UK Open. From the point where he was the favourite to take the title, having overcome some tricky opponents in style, he folded in the semi-final stage. That and last week’s Premier League draw with Luke Humphries has slammed the brakes on his early season momentum. His opponent hasn’t really had any momentum to speak of. We all know what Mensur Suljovic can do. But ‘can do’ and ‘have done’ are worlds apart. The first thing the Gentle can do to get on the right track is stay clear of Judgement Night elimination. Victory over Peter Wright in Exeter is a good start. Seeing off Price would be useful.
It’d also make for a strange statistic if Suljovic does beat Price, after seeing off Wright previously. It would mean that, to date, the Austrian would have picked up four Premier League wins, on Weeks Four and Five in both 2018 and 2019. In 2018, the two players he beat were Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price. Spooky…
Moving swiftly on – Raymond van Barneveld is bottom of the Premier League, and nobody is surprised. Knocked out of the UK Open straight away, and out of the world’s top 32, his farewell year is starting to feel like a steady slide into an underwhelming last hurrah. He might be feeling that way too. And that’s why Barney absolutely has to beat Peter Wright. Snakebite has suffered defeats to Mensur Suljovic in each of his last two games. He managed a three-figure average in the first game of the Premier League season but hasn’t come near to repeating the feat. Some steady scoring here would probably see him clear of a pretty tame opponent.
The final tie of the night pits a true giant of the game against a plucky underdog. You can decide which of those is John Henderson and Michael van Gerwen. Henderson has won four board finals in floor events this season, compared to a mere three from van Gerwen. Evidently, the Highlander is the favourite.
In all seriousness, he might fancy his chances here. For one, the Huntly native is in front of a raucous home faithful who will be on his side throughout. Secondly, he has a knack for going under the radar and causing damage, most memorably during a run to the Grand Prix semi-finals in 2017. He famously beat van Gerwen on that occasion. There’s also the fact that the Dutchman has lost his last two games, against Wade in the Premier League and Mervyn King in the UK Open. The aura of invincibility surrounding him hasn’t just dissipated; it has been decimated. It may take a while to rebuild. Mighty Mike is, of course, the likely victor here. Falling to another defeat could send shockwaves through the Premier League, and beyond.
Week Five schedule
Michael Smith v Rob Cross
Daryl Gurney v James Wade
Mensur Suljovic v Gerwyn Price
Raymond van Barneveld v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v John Henderson
Author: Ed McCosh