The sun’s shining this time around as the Premier League returns to Exeter.
Last year, Storm Emma wiped the Exeter event from the Premier League calendar, and wreaked havoc with the UK Open. This time, there are no such worries. The weather’s running hot, and so is the quality of darts right now. This is the last chance for the tally of Feburary nine-darters – a truly ridiculous 11 – to be topped. Michael van Gerwen has promised to get one in the Premier League, so there’s that.
It’s a real mystery who the Exeter fans will be supporting in the first match. Will it be Luke Humphries, the talented youngster who thrilled everyone at the PDC World Championship? Or Gerwyn Price, who is so much of a pantomime villain that it’s almost a surprise he isn’t followed around by Joe Pasquale? (If you don’t get the reference, Google it. Actually…don’t.)
Price is pretty much used to the crowd being against him – the Iceman is cooler under that pressure than he was before. With a stupendous Players Championship weekend providing yet more momentum here, he’ll fancy a big win that would see him join Michael van Gerwen at the Premier League summit – for a bit, anyway.
Daryl Gurney and Rob Cross meet having had very different Dublin experiences last week. Gurney looked like he would win, and then lose, and then perhaps draw against Michael Smith. But Superchin grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and took both points. Cross was bullied by van Gerwen to such an extent that the Dutchman was almost slapped with a restraining order. He was very lucky to grab two legs, let alone going for two points. Another performance like that would be very well received by Gurney.
Suljovic needs to get it Wright
Mensur Suljovic might be feeling very sorry for himself at this point. Somehow the Gentle is still winless. What will worry him more is that he has failed to beat Raymond van Barneveld and contender Chris Dobey, two games you’d want to win considering some of the other opponents in the schedule. He is now where Peter Wright was a week ago – sick to death of draws. Snakebite put that right with a battling win over Steve Lennon. Another win here and the world number three is in a great position.
Michael van Gerwen will have one eye on the UK Open. He doesn’t have any ranking money to defend, but the two-time winner missed the 2017 event through injury and bowed out early last year thanks to Jeffrey de Zwaan. But the Premier League leader can’t be complacent, because that’s the sort of thing James Wade picks up on. The Machine was excellent against Gerwyn Price in Dublin, with five 180s and an average of 103.89. Given that he’s the sort of player who can average 15-20 points less and win, it was strange that he could only turn that form into a draw. How he would love to end MVG’s early unbeaten run, in true Wadey style.
Two of the three players left without a win so far go into the last tie of the night looking to do something about it. Raymond van Barneveld has earned himself two draws and a handy reputation for coming back from the brink. It flies in the face of criticism that the veteran isn’t motivated to do well any more. A win would shatter that misconception. And he couldn’t ask for a better time to play Michael Smith. The Bully Boy is also winless, sits bottom of the league, and is recovering from a health scare. If the eye of the tiger still remains, Barney will surely pounce on this opportunity.
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Night Four – Thursday February 28
Westpoint Arena, Exeter
Luke Humphries vs Gerwyn Price
Daryl Gurney vs Rob Cross
Mensur Suljovic vs Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen vs James Wade
Michael Smith vs Raymond van Barneveld
Author: Ed McCosh