John Henderson produced an inspired display as he recovered from 3-0 and 6-4 down to share the spoils with Michael van Gerwen on a memorable night of Premier League action at the BHGE Arena in Aberdeen.
‘The Highlander’ was one of the nine contenders selected to replace the injured Gary Anderson in this year’s Premier League, and he produced a brilliant performance on the biggest night of his career.
Henderson received an incredible reception from the 4,000 capacity crowd, after being welcomed to “Flower of Scotland” by a bagpiper, before his usual entrance of ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ sent the Aberdeen crowd wild.
However, Van Gerwen made a blistering start to the contest and established a 5-2 lead with an astonishing 116 average. ‘The Green Machine’ posted his world record average of 123.40 in Aberdeen two years ago and he was threatening a similar feat at one stage, but Hendo rallied magnificently.
The 45-year-old capitalised on some profligacy from Van Gerwen to reduce the arrears to 5-4, only for ‘The Green Machine’ to punish some sloppy scoring from the Scot to lead 6-4. However, Henderson wasn’t to be denied; firing in back-to-back 14-dart legs in the closing stages to deny the Dutchman victory.
“I’m delighted with how it went,” said Henderson, who averaged 97.38 and posted six maximums. “I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed anything like that in my career, it was tremendous.
“I felt emotional on the walk-on and I didn’t want to go up there and play badly. To play the best player in the world in your home town, and get a draw, has left me almost speechless.
“At 3-0 down I felt I was playing well, but Michael let me in and I got back into it. I dug in, and I’ve been doing that this year. It was absolutely fantastic and to do that in front of my home crowd is phenomenal.”
Van Gerwen is now one of four players locked on seven points at the top of the table, after Rob Cross, James Wade and Gerwyn Price all registered victories in Aberdeen.
However, Wade produced the performance of the evening; averaging 109.59 and converting 78% of his attempts at double as he recorded the tenth whitewash in Premier League history – at the expense of Daryl Gurney.
Wade, who took out finishes of 158 and 116 en route to victory, reflected: “It’s a great win and I’m really happy. Daryl is better than that but it’s an evolution of my character. Nobody wants to win 7-0 but I played better and took my chances well. I still believe I’m one of the best in the world, if not the best at times.”
Rob Cross is up to second after kicking off the evening with an impressive 7-3 win over last year’s finalist Michael Smith. ‘Bully Boy’ posted legs of 14 and 12 darts to secure the early initiative, but Cross conjured up a majestic 164 outshot to break in leg five.
‘Voltage’ then converted finishes of 68, 81 and 87 in successive legs to guarantee himself a point, but Smith landed a classy 90 checkout on the bullseye to prolong the contest. However, Cross wrapped up victory via double three moments later, to claim his 11th win over Smith in 14 meetings.
Cross, who also defeated Smith in last weekend’s UK Open semi-finals, said: “I’m really happy. There’s a lot more to come but I did a good job today. The 164 settled me down and was a catalyst for me. Michael’s a fantastic player and I thought it would be a lot closer, but I’m getting back to my best darts and I’m enjoying it again.”
Gerwyn Price maintained his unbeaten start to the campaign as he claimed a convincing 7-3 win over Mensur Suljovic to retain his place in the top four. Price produced finishes of 107 and 127 en route to securing a 5-1 lead, before defying a late rally from the Austrian to prevail with a 93.13 average and 78% on the doubles.
“I wasn’t scoring very well but when it came to my last dart on the doubles I was great, and my finishing got me out of jail,” said Price. “I’m happy with where I am at the moment ahead of a big game against Van Gerwen next week. I’m picking up points and I’m the only unbeaten player so long may it continue.”
Elsewhere, Peter Wright secured his second win of the season to leave Raymond van Barneveld languishing at the bottom of the table. Van Barneveld received a great deal of support against home hero Snakebite, but the world number three produced his best display of the season so far.
Van Barneveld drew first blood with a 14-dart hold, but Wright then reeled off five successive legs as his average climbed above 111. Barney doubled his tally with a fine 11-darter, but Wright responded with a 10-darter, before eventually closing out a 7-3 win with a 106.60 average.
“I’m pleased with the way it went and I’m happy with the win,” said Wright, who is just one point behind table-topper James Wade. “It’s as good a performance as I’ve had this season but I can still improve.
“I’ve changed from 24 gram darts to 26 grams since last week and there’s loads of potential in them. I want to be more consistent and average over 100 more regularly. I love coming up to Aberdeen and it was an electrifying atmosphere tonight,” he added.
The Premier League roadshow rolls into Nottingham for Night Six next week, as newly crowned UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall makes his Premier League bow against Smith, in a repeat of their World Championship semi-final clash a few months ago.
Price and Van Gerwen collide in an intriguing tussle, while league leader Wade meets Suljovic. Elsewhere, Cross takes on Van Barneveld, whilst Wright and Gurney lock horns in the final match of the evening.
Photo Credit: Steve Welsh/PDC
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night Five – Thursday March 7
The BHGE Arena, Aberdeen
Michael Smith 3-7 Rob Cross
Daryl Gurney 0-7 James Wade
Mensur Suljovic 3-7 Gerwyn Price
Raymond van Barneveld 3-7 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 6-6 John Henderson