After visits to Scotland and England, the Premier League Darts is Wales-bound.
The Welsh crowd will have two of their darting sons to exalt, but first up are the 2018 and 2020 world champions. Rob Cross will know what Peter Wright’s going through at the moment; expectations are high, and the Premier League Darts takes no prisoners. Wright’s off to a rocky start, but then again, most players will only take a point between matches against Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson.
Cross is off to a better start. Having played Gerwyn Price and Nathan Aspinall, Voltage has picked up three points. He’ll be wary of Wright’s scoring form – with 10 maximums to his name, the Scot is the Premier League’s premium 180-hitter right now. But on paper, everything suggests that the pair (who have exclusively been involved in 6-6 or 7-5 scorelines) will play out another tight game.
Jonny Clayton then makes his Premier League Darts bow in front of an adoring Cardiff public. The Ferret could one day be a regular in this competition. Putting an end to inconsistent form and impressing at the majors is key. He can look at this like Glen Durrant or Nathan Aspinall may have looked at their ‘contender’ appearances last season; a springboard to something bigger.
Clayton plays Michael Smith, who grabbed his first Premier League Darts point of the season last week against Clayton’s compatriot, Gerwyn Price. He’ll probably wonder how a draw was snatched from the jaws of victory, especially when he was threatening to break records early on. The Bully Boy needs to work on a more ruthless edge if he’s to push vital wins over the line. Denying the challenger a heroic homecoming would be a good start.
MVG going for the hat-trick
Michael van Gerwen suggested this week that Nathan Aspinall hasn’t “really shown it on television yet”. If you exclude his UK Open title, the televised US Darts Masters title (where he averaged almost 107 in the final) and the two consecutive World Championship semi-finals, perhaps the Dutchman has a point.
Aspinall will be aware that he’s come undone against the world number one before, most notably at the Ally Pally in December. Van Gerwen’s also averaging better and finishing better than anyone in the embryonic Premier League Darts season. But considering the strides he’s taken, the Stockport ace won’t consider victory to be beyond him. From Van Gerwen’s perspective, victory would add to the thrashing of Daryl Gurney last week, and the narrow win over Peter Wright before that, to keep the only 100 per cent record in the league going.
The Cardiff roof will be raised for Gerwyn Price, as he locks horns with Daryl Gurney. The two will hopefully square off a little less literally than in their heated Sheffield encounter last year. History’s already been repeating itself in a bad way for the Iceman, however. Last year’s top four push was blighted by too many draws, and he has already squared both of his opening ties. Against Smith, his classic bloody-minded determination mixed in with a good heap of luck to help him grab a point.
Gurney wasn’t exactly awful against Michael van Gerwen in Nottingham. He was simply helpless to prevent the rout. That being said, he sits bottom, and his stats across the board are worrying. Superchin couldn’t even rely on the Pro Tour events to give him some respite. Defeat here, and you start to wonder when the alarm bells start ringing for Gurney.
More joy for Duzza?
Glen Durrant is currently second in the Premier League Darts table. There’s a long way to go, and in Michael Smith and a challenger [the consistently odds-defying Fallon Sherrock], he’s had two of the more palatable ties on paper to start with. But points on the board count above all else. Now Duzza gets to prove his worth against not only one of the most dangerous players involved, but one of history’s great tungsten throwers.
Gary Anderson has shown his trademark brilliance in fits and starts so far. What he hasn’t been able to do is pull well clear of opponents, as Durrant did against Michael Smith. It means he’s had one draw and one narrow win thus far. Anderson can set his sights high in this Premier League Darts campaign, though he’ll want to take opportunities like this to build up momentum – and perhaps the leg difference alongside. If he’s drawn into another scrap, Durrant might well snatch all the points away from him.
Premier League Darts schedule
Night Three, Cardiff (19:00 GMT start)
Peter Wright vs Rob Cross
Jonny Clayton [challenger] vs Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen vs Nathan Aspinall
Gerwyn Price vs Daryl Gurney
Glen Durrant vs Gary Anderson
Author: Ed McCosh