Premier League Darts heads to Cardiff for Night Three of competition on Thursday, with two Welsh stars hoping to raise…
Premier League Darts heads to Cardiff for Night Three of competition on Thursday, with two Welsh stars hoping to raise the roof at the Motorpoint Arena.
Only one player boasts a 100 per cent record after just two weeks of competition, with reigning champion Michael van Gerwen setting the early pace.
Eight of the nine Unibet Premier League regulars have picked up at least a point, while a Challenger is still yet to win a match since the concept was launched last season.
This week, Jonny Clayton steps up as the debutant Challenger as he looks to delight a partisan Welsh crowd by denying Masters finalist Michael Smith crucial points.
World number 16 Clayton is the number two ranked Welshman in the PDC and has enjoyed a rapid rise since coming through Qualifying School in 2015 to earn a Tour Card.
Runner-up in the 2017 Players Championship Finals, Clayton has also reached the Quarter-Finals of a further four PDC televised tournaments and has three ranking titles to his name.
A plasterer by day, Clayton has twice represented Wales in the World Cup of Darts and is aiming to spring a surprise on Smith – who has taken just one point from his opening two games.
Smith was beaten 7-3 by Glen Durrant on opening night in Aberdeen before holding Gerwyn Price to a draw with a 101 average in an improved showing in Nottingham.
The world number five has won four of his five previous meetings with Clayton and will be keen to kick-start his season here and avoid becoming the first player to lose to a Challenger.
Clayton’s World Cup team-mate Gerwyn Price is also set for a hero’s reception as he marks his homecoming with a show-down against Daryl Gurney.
Price may have become accustomed to the pantomime boos but for one night only will see the tables turned as he looks to put his first win on the board.
The back-to-back Grand Slam champion has drawn his opening two matches and has been left to rue costly missed chances in both matches, a similar tale to that which ultimately cost him a place in the play-offs last season.
Price was involved in an explosive 7-7 draw with Gurney in Sheffield last season which saw the pair exchange words on the oche, but the hatchet has long since been buried between the two players.
Gurney has made a nightmare start to the season on both floor and stage, suffering back-to-back Premier League defeats and failing to progress beyond the Last 64 stage in any of the four Players Championships.
Gurney has averaged just 91 and 93 in his opening two matches and knows he requires a marked improvement if he is to silence a sell-out crowd in his opponent’s back yard.
Elsewhere, reigning Premier League Darts champion faces reigning UK Open champion as Michael van Gerwen takes on Nathan Aspinall.
A match which signals a repeat of their World Championship Semi-Final in December sees Aspinall aiming to take revenge and end MVG’s perfect start to the competition.
After a scrappy opening win over John Henderson, Aspinall was narrowly beaten 7-5 by Rob Cross last week but has been in blistering form on the ProTour, notably winning Players Championship Two with a nine-darter along the way.
Van Gerwen already boasts a tournament average of 104.5 after wins over Peter Wright and Daryl Gurney, but unlike ‘The Asp’, is yet to claim a ranking title in 2020.
The world number one has finished top of the table in all seven of his previous Premier League appearances and will be determined to assert his authority in the early stages and remain odds-on favourite to top the pile once again.
Two-time Premier League Darts champion Gary Anderson and debutant Glen Durrant collide for the first time in four years in a mouth-watering final fixture of the night.
The only previous meeting between the two came in the 2016 Grand Slam as Anderson claimed a narrow group stage win, before Durrant went on to win the first of his three Lakeside titles just two months later.
Durrant is heading for a top 16 spot at a rate of knots after just over a year as a Tour Card holder and has settled quickly into Premier League life, claiming three points from a possible four.
After his opening night win over Smith, the tenacious Teessider dug deep to earn a 6-6 draw with Fallon Sherrock to move second in the early standings.
He now faces a formidable test against the two-time PDC World Champion who has enjoyed an emphatic return to form this season, winning the first Players Championship event and also racking up three points from his opening two fixtures.
The power scoring of Anderson comes up against the clinical finishing of Durrant in a fascinating encounter which could go the distance.
The opening match of the evening sees reigning World Champion Peter Wright take on 2018 World Champion Rob Cross.
Both players know exactly what it takes to reach a Premier League final, with Wright having done so in 2017 before Cross also finished runner-up at The O2 two years later.
Despite a First Round exit at The Masters and two First Round exits on the ProTour, Cross has made a solid start to the Premier League campaign with three points under his belt.
Wright, meanwhile, bounced back from defeat to MVG on Night One by holding Gary Anderson to a 6-6 draw and is now looking to record a third consecutive televised win over Voltage.
The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with all matches to be contested over the best of 12 legs.
Premier League Darts 2020 Match Schedule
Night Three – Thursday February 20
7.15pm Peter Wright v Rob Cross
8.00pm Jonny Clayton v Michael Smith
8.45pm Michael van Gerwen v Nathan Aspinall
9.30pm Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
10.15pm Glen Durrant v Gary Anderson