Five players are still in contention for a semi-final place ahead of tonight’s Premier League Darts meeting in Newcastle.
The final week of the Premier League Darts group stage is here and only Phil Taylor and Simon Whitlock have secured their spot for the May 17 showpiece.
Andy Hamilton v Kevin Painter
Betfred Odds: Hamilton Evens, Painter 11/8, draw 9/2
Hamilton is currently seventh in the standings with 11 points with Painter just one place above but on the same number of points. And with Adrian Lewis, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld all locked together on 12 points, the winner of this clash could well go through to the semi-finals. The table is so tight that it could even go down to the positive / negative leg difference over the entire 14 weeks of battle.
Hamilton is widely regarded as one of the nicest men in darts and would be a popular winner on the night to eliminate Painter, who has not always endeared himself to the fans or his fellow players. ‘The Hammer’ has only won three matches in the entire 13 weeks of play but, in football parlance, has been hard to beat, with five draws. And he has not been beaten since week nine and showed his class with an 8-4 victory over Whitlock last time out to keep his play-off hopes alive.
But it will not be easy against ‘The Artist’ who has also run into some decent form just at the right time. After losing five on the bounce he has won two of the last three and took care of double world champion Lewis with ease in Birmingham seven days ago. Painter could still go through with a draw – as long as Whitlock beats Lewis and van Barneveld and Wade do not draw – but he will not want to gamble on that happening and there could be some fireworks in this one.
Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor
Betfred Odds: Anderson 11/2, Taylor 1/5, draw 15/2
This is the one ‘dead rubber’ of the night with defending champion Anderson already eliminated and legend Taylor safely though after topping the group with 23 points.
After a great start to the event the Scot has been woeful but did have to deal with the death of his father in the middle of the group stage. He is clearly better than his record suggests but the fact he has not won since week four tells the story of why he is propping up the table.
It would be great for the ‘Flying Scotsman’ to go out on a high note but, with Taylor showing no sign of letting up, that is unlikely to happen. ‘The Power’ will want to put down a marker for the semi-finals so expect an average way in excess of 100 from the Potteries master.
Raymond van Barneveld v James Wade
Betfred Odds: van Barneveld 6/4, Wade Evens, draw 9/2
Both these stars can still qualify as they sit in fourth and fifth place respectively and have 12 points apiece and so this has to be the match of the night. A draw would be enough for both men to remain in the competition if Lewis fails to beat Whitlock and Hamilton and Painter draw, but both will want to win this one to guarantee a place at the O2 Arena.
Barney has been sensational on occasions and subdued on others this term but he has only won once in the past five weeks, with back-to-back draws against Anderson and Hamilton in his last two outings. Body language has not always been good from the big Dutchman but when he gets it right and everything clicks, there is no better sight in darts than his silky smooth throw.
Wade lost his first three matches before going on a streak of five wins from seven matches but, like Barney, he has struggled to get over the line in the past few outings. His last win came against Anderson in week 10 and so something will have to give when these two giants of the sport clash in the north east. Although both could go through it is an unlikely scenario and so it is all to play for on the night.
Adrian Lewis v Simon Whitlock
Betfred Odds: Lewis Evens, Whitlock 6/4, draw 9/2
The fact that Lewis is third in the standings and has his destiny in his own hands is something of a minor miracle given the start he made to this year’s competition. The Stoke man did not win until week seven, with three draws and three defeats, and he looked a shadow of the player that took the world title at the start of the year.
But he has upped his level and won four and drawn one of his last seven contests to move up the standings. However, he was comprehensively beaten by Painter in week 13 and will need to improve on his average of 96 against Whitlock to stand any chance of beating the talented Aussie. Lewis is capable of destroying anyone on his day, and inflicted the first defeat on Taylor in week 13, but those days have been few and far between this season.
Whitlock is safely through to finals day with 14 points already under his belt courtesy of six wins and two draws. The ‘Wizard of Oz’ has been in great form although he has lost his last two matches and that is something that will not have escaped Lewis’ attention. He will want to win to regain some momentum and make sure he does not finish in fourth spot and therefore have to face Taylor in the semi-finals.
Defeat for Lewis will see him fail to reach the play-off stage regardless of what happens elsewhere and it would be no surprise to see ‘Jackpot’ right on the money when he needs to be.