Robert Thornton climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone after enjoying a fantastic night at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Thursday evening. The Scot appeared to be a relegation certainty prior to tonight’s action, but he secured three points from his double-header to climb out of the elimination places.
‘The Thorn’ had just one point when he arrived in Merseyside, but he claimed his first victory of the season with a narrow win over Michael Smith, before earning a precious point against Michael van Gerwen in the evening’s curtain raiser.
Thornton kicked off the evening’s proceedings with a hard-fought win against Smith, who is now staring down the barrel of relegation. Thornton led 5-2 at one stage, before ‘Bully-Boy’ launched an admirable fightback, drawing level at 5-5, before the Scot upped the ante to win the final two legs.
It was an attritional battle, as expected given the repercussions of a defeat for either player. However, Thornton’s finishing was the decisive factor. He hit fine shots of 78 and 112 in crucial junctures of the contest, as Smith was punished once again for profligate finishing.
After Smith restored parity at 5-5, Thornton showed his class to break Smith with a stunning 11-darter. The deciding leg was a nervous affair, but Smith almost salvaged a point, wiring D10 for an incredible 140 finish. However, the World Grand-Prix champion took advantage of this reprieve, hitting D20 to keep his survival hopes intact.
However, Thornton raised his level considerably to snatch a point against the under-par world number one. Van Gerwen began in ominous fashion, posting his first maximum and converting 84 in two darts for an early lead. MvG was threatening a break in the second leg, but Thornton held on to his throw courtesy of a wonderful 140 finish.
The World Grand-Prix Champion then secured a crucial break of throw, hitting D12 for a 13-darter to punish an indifferent scoring leg from ‘The Green Machine’. Robert was throwing with supreme confidence and secured his third straight leg by virtue of nailing D10.
However, Van Gerwen rectified the situation and regained the initiative by reeling off three successive legs of his own, which included a fine 130 checkout in leg seven, after Thornton had narrowly missed D5 for exactly the same finish in the preceding visit.
However, Robert remained unperturbed and despite Van Gerwen securing a point with a clinical 96 checkout, his scoring evaded him completely in the deciding leg, leaving 185 after 15 darts, which enabled Thornton to post his favourite D20 and complete a magnificent evening’s work. Remarkably, the great escape is on for ‘The Thorn’.
Elsewhere, Phil Taylor was left to rue four missed match darts as Peter Wright fought back from 6-4 down to claim a share of the spoils in an intriguing tussle. Wright had lost his previous three games so this was a significant result for Snakebite, who maintains his unbeaten Premier League record against ‘The Power’.
Taylor averaged 101.51, whilst Wright averaged 103.4. It was a high-quality encounter with some fantastic finishing. Snakebite produced a superb 130 checkout in the fourth, but then missed three darts to secure a crucial break in the following leg and Taylor responded tremendously with a stunning 141 checkout.
The next four legs went with throw as Taylor held a slender 5-4 lead, but the 16-time world champion produced a leg of sheer quality against the darts, breaking Peter’s throw with a fantastic 11-darter.
However, Taylor was unable to close out victory, in a role reversal to last week’s clash against Michael van Gerwen. MvG led 6-4 and missed three match darts, and on this occasion, ‘The Power’ missed four darts at D20, and Wright dealt a devastating blow to Taylor with a classy 111 finish.
This evidently deflated the 55-year-old Stoke star, and Wright dominated the twelfth and deciding leg on throw. The Scot wired D18 for a spectacular 121 finish, but with Taylor trailing by a considerable margin, Snakebite returned to pin D18 for a 13-darter, to secure a much-needed point.
Gary Anderson’s magnificent run of form continues, as he secured his sixth straight league victory by beating Dave Chisnall, who is becoming increasingly embroiled in the fight to avoid elimination on Judgement Night. Anderson averaged 103.25 and hit three maximums to go to the top of the table, albeit briefly.
Chisnall meanwhile, is without a win since his whitewash victory over Robert Thornton in the opening week of action. Chizzy averaged 100 himself against the world champion, but he was ruthlessly punished for a poor 21% checkout percentage, after hitting just 4/19 on the doubles.
Finally, Adrian Lewis prevailed in a topsy-turvy clash against Raymond van Barneveld. The Dutchman was the better player for the most part, but Lewis was clinical and took his chances expertly. The opening six legs were shared with four breaks of throw, as van Barneveld edged ahead before getting immediately pegged back.
However, Jackpot appeared in cruise control as he reeled off three successive legs to lead 6-3 and close in on a fifth win of the season. However van Barneveld rallied superbly, taking out 69 to stop the rot, before following a Lewis maximum with a fabulous 104 checkout to force a last-leg decider.
Nevertheless, Jackpot posted his third 180 and punished an indifferent leg from Raymond to break straight back and seal the points. Despite this, the defeats suffered by Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith ensured that Barney won’t be involved in the survival scrap come Judgement Night next week.
It’s all set to be an enthralling night of action at both ends of the table on Judgement Night in Cardiff. There is just one point separating Robert Thornton, Dave Chisnall and Michael Smith at the foot of the table, although the St Helen’s duo are occupying both relegation spots at present.
In terms of the battle for top spot, Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Gary Anderson are all locked on 12 points, after Taylor and Van Gerwen were held for the second successive week. Van Gerwen leads the way on legs difference, but Adrian Lewis and James Wade are hot on their heels, trailing the three-way leaders by just two points.
Betway Premier League
Night Eight – March 24
Echo Arena, Liverpool
Michael Smith 5-7 Robert Thornton
Gary Anderson 7-4 Dave Chisnall
Adrian Lewis 7-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Phil Taylor 6-6 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 6-6 Robert Thornton