Peter Manley sets up iconic clash against Phil Taylor at World Seniors Darts Championship

Peter Manley will renew his rivalry with old foe Phil Taylor at the World Seniors Championship, after battling past Deta Hedman at the Circus Tavern on Thursday evening.

On a night of darting history, Manley marked his first televised appearance in over a decade with a 3-1 victory over trailblazer Hedman, to set up a fascinating showdown against ‘The Power’.

The 24-player tournament is headlined by 16-time world champion Taylor, who will feature in his first competitive event since his retirement in January 2018.

The inaugural staging of the World Seniors event features a host of tungsten legends battling it out for the £30,000 top prize over four days at the iconic Purfleet venue, and Taylor enters the fray on Friday evening.

The Stoke-on-Trent veteran whitewashed Manley in two World Championship finals in 2001 and 2006, winning 22 of their 25 career meetings, although ‘One Dart’ will have the opportunity to belatedly avenge those defeats, following his comeback success against ‘The Heart of Darts’.

Hedman boasts over 200 ranking titles on her illustrious résumé, and having made her Alexandra Palace debut just over 12 months ago, the former World Master remains a prominent figure in the women’s game.

The 62-year-old drew first blood in a scrappy opening set, only for three-time world finalist Manley to respond emphatically, winning eight of the next nine legs to close in on a place in the second round.

‘The Heart of Darts’ has been plagued by a shoulder injury over recent weeks, and she was clearly struggling throughout her clash against the former Las Vegas Desert Classic champion, who rolled back the years with a classy 117 checkout midway through set three.

Hedman preserved her slender hopes with a break of throw in set four, but any hopes of forcing a fifth set were quashed in a dramatic conclusion to proceedings, which saw her bust a 126 checkout, as Manley eventually closed out victory with his fifth match dart.

Robert Thornton is highly-fancied to challenge for the title this weekend, and ‘The Thorn’ underlined his credentials with an emphatic 3-0 win over Bob Anderson in the tournament’s curtain-raiser.

Two-time PDC major winner Thornton reached a Pro Tour semi-final 12 months ago, although he was forced to come through a tight opening set against ‘The Limestone Cowboy’ – making his first competitive appearance since the 2009 League of Legends.

Thornton fired in back-to-back 180s en route to opening his account, and after claiming set two without reply, the Scot fired in legs of 15, 14 and 13 darts to seal the deal with a 94.66 average and seven 180s, to set up a tie with ten-time women’s champion Trina Gulliver for a place in the quarter-finals.

Anderson – the 1988 world champion – battled valiantly throughout, and he enjoyed a moment to savour in the closing stages, landing his first maximum and marking the feat with his iconic finger point celebration.

Elsewhere, Kevin Painter edged out Tony O’Shea in a thrilling five-set tie-break to advance to the last 16, where he will take on 2020 BDO world champion Wayne Warren.

‘The Artist’ could potentially play Taylor in the quarter-finals, in a repeat of their epic 2004 world final, and he opened up a two-set lead against O’Shea, only for ‘Silverback’ to produce an unlikely comeback.

The contest appeared to be heading for a dramatic sudden-death leg, but a majestic 156 checkout from Painter in the latter stages shifted the pendulum, and the former Players Championship Finals winner pinned double two to prevail 6-4 in the fifth and decisive set.

In the evening’s finale, qualifier Richie Howson came through a taxing five-set affair against former BDO World Trophy winner Darryl Fitton, and his reward is a tie with three-time world champion Martin Adams on Friday evening.

Howson came through a qualifying event in November to book his place in this event, and after surrendering the opening set, ‘The Owl’ reeled off six unanswered legs to seize the initiative.

Fitton responded to restore parity at two apiece, but local favourite Howson delivered his best darts when it mattered most, clinching the decider in three straight legs, roared on by a partisan Essex crowd.

Image Credit: Chris Sargeant/Tip Top Pics

Thursday February 3
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
First Round (Best of 5 sets)
Robert Thornton 3-0 Bob Anderson
Peter Manley 3-1 Deta Hedman
Tony O’Shea 2-3 Kevin Painter
Darryl Fitton 2-3 Richie Howson

Friday February 4
Afternoon Session (1300 GMT)
First Round (Best of 5 sets)

Les Wallace v John Walton
Paul Lim v Dave Prins
Alan Warriner-Little v Larry Butler
Terry Jenkins v Roland Scholten

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
Second Round (Best of 5 sets)
Wayne Warren v Kevin Painter
Martin Adams v Richie Howson
Phil Taylor v Peter Manley
Trina Gulliver v Robert Thornton

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