The Premier League roadshow heads to Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena on Thursday, with ‘challenger’ Fallon Sherrock the headline act as she faces three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant on Night Two.
Sherrock created history by becoming the first woman to win a match at the recent PDC World Championship, claiming the scalps of Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic. Now ‘The Queen of the Palace’ becomes the first woman to feature in the Premier League as the second of this year’s nine ‘challengers’.
World Cup partners Peter Wright and Gary Anderson collide in a battle of the world champions, whilst world No 1 Michael van Gerwen bids to make it two wins from two when he locks horns with last year’s semi-finalist Daryl Gurney.
Elsewhere, Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price meets former finalist Michael Smith, whilst the evening’s curtain-raiser sees Rob Cross and Nathan Aspinall clash in a repeat of last year’s UK Open final.
Rob Cross vs Nathan Aspinall
Aspinall featured in Nottingham as a ‘contender’ 12 months ago but now he’s a permanent fixture, which is indicative of his remarkable rise over the last 18 months. ‘The Asp’ made a winning start against John Henderson in Aberdeen, before landing a fourth PDC title in a Pro Tour event on Sunday.
Aspinall struggled for large periods against Hendo last week but improved as the contest progressed, taking out a sparkling 170 finish in the penultimate leg. However, he was in blistering form on Sunday – posting a 117.50 average to beat Wright before sweeping aside Price in the final.
Cross endured a horror-show at the recent Masters and many people feared a repeat against Price, only for ‘Voltage’ to post a 100 average as he claimed a share of the spoils and but for a late rally from ‘The Iceman’, he was poised to claim a precious two points.
You cannot write off a player of Cross’ pedigree and the fact he was able to perform the way he did against the Welshman despite lacking form is testament to his mentality. This has all the hallmarks of being a close contest, but Aspinall has momentum on his side and may just edge it.
Prediction: Cross 5-7 Aspinall
Gerwyn Price vs Michael Smith
Both men were left frustrated in Nottingham last week. Price surrendered a 4-2 cushion against Cross before salvaging a share of the spoils following a mid-game collapse, whilst Smith suffered a 7-3 defeat against a clinical Durrant – missed doubles again proving costly for ‘Bully Boy’.
Profligacy was a recurring theme for Smith in last year’s competition and although he didn’t spurn a multitude of opportunities against ‘Duzza’, he was unable to compete with his opponent’s lethal combination finishing. Hangover from his heartbreaking Masters defeat perhaps?
Price lost four of his 18 games last term but too many draws from winning positions denied him a play-off spot and he’ll be desperate to avoid a repeat in 2020. Nevertheless, the world No 3 won the final two legs of his clash against Cross in 25 darts, therefore he’s still producing under pressure.
Smith leads the Welshman 14-9 in terms of head-to-head record, although Price has won each of the last three encounters – including a showdown during last weekend’s Players Championship Two. You can make a case for both, but Price just appears more reliable in key moments.
Prediction: Price 7-4 Smith
Gary Anderson vs Peter Wright
It’s wonderful to see Anderson back to somewhere near his best. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ was sidelined from last year’s roadshow through injury but after making a winning return on home soil against Gurney last week, he clinched his first PDC title since September 2018 on Saturday.
The two-time world champion appears to have rediscovered his appetite for the game and that was evidenced last weekend, where he averaged 101.90 across seven matches in Barnsley, defeating Simon Whitlock, Price, Cross, Joe Cullen and Adrian Lewis en route to glory.
Wright didn’t pick up a title over the weekend but he still performed impressively, reaching back-to-back quarter-finals while posting a whopping 113.70 average in defeat to an inspired Aspinall. However, he’ll be keen to open his account in this year’s tournament on Thursday.
The world champion was beaten 7-5 by Van Gerwen on home soil, with ‘The Green Machine’ firing in four ton-plus finishes in the process. Wright led 2-0 and had darts to win each of the opening five legs, but the world No 1 took full advantage of those early reprieves.
Anderson’s blistering three-leg spell from 5-4 down was enough to defeat Gurney last Thursday, yet he may not be afforded the same generosity against Snakebite, who is the pillar of consistency right now. This should be a classic, but I’m going for Wright to snatch a sixth straight win over Ando.
Prediction: Anderson 5-7 Wright
Glen Durrant vs Fallon Sherrock
What an occasion this could be. Sherrock demonstrated her big-game pedigree at the World Championship against Evetts, Suljovic and Dobey and I don’t think she’ll be fazed by the boisterous atmosphere, although in Durrant – she’s facing one of the most clinical operators in world darts.
Durrant has almost taken on the James Wade mantle – whenever he leaves a combination finish with the region of 70-120 there’s a sense of inevitability that it will be mopped up and that was showcased in Aberdeen, as he boasted a stunning 78% checkout success rate to oust Smith 7-3.
Sherrock is arguably the best grouper of a dart in the women’s game and she’s a prolific maximum hitter. The 25-year-old also converted over 50% of her attempts at double throughout her entire Alexandra Palace campaign and she’ll have to take every chance she’s presented with against Durrant.
It will be uncharted territory for the Teessider, but he’s got the experience to cope with the hostile atmosphere, although the early stages could be crucial. If Sherrock starts strongly the crowd will respond and Durrant will be become embroiled. I just think Glen will be too strong and too consistent.
Prediction: Durrant 7-3 Sherrock
Daryl Gurney vs Michael van Gerwen
Any concerns surrounding Van Gerwen’s new darts were quickly eradicated after he conjured up four ton-plus checkouts and averaged over 104 to defeat world champion Wright on home turf last Thursday, although the world No 1 cannot afford to take anything for granted against Gurney.
The Northern Irishman became just the second player in Premier League history to complete the league double over MvG last term and whilst Van Gerwen gained revenge in the semi-finals, Gurney also has fond memories of beating ‘Mighty Mike’ to win the Players Championship Finals in 2018.
Nevertheless, it’s not been the best of weeks for ‘Super Chin’. He struggled for rhythm against Anderson and relinquished a 5-4 cushion following a late collapse, and he performed poorly in the Players Championship double-header in Barnsley, posting averages of 81, 80, 89 and 90 in his four outings.
Gurney has an excellent habit of producing on the big occasion and he’ll take comfort from his more than respectable record over Van Gerwen. Despite this, the Dutchman is a man on a mission as he bids to top the league phase for the eighth consecutive campaign.
Prediction: Gurney 4-7 Van Gerwen
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC