The first half of the 2021 Premier League Darts season draws to a close on Night Nine in Milton Keynes…
The first half of the 2021 Premier League Darts season draws to a close on Night Nine in Milton Keynes on Thursday as focus turns to the battle for play-off places.
What was originally billed as ‘Judgement Night’ now becomes simply ‘Night Nine’ after Rob Cross joined Glen Durrant in being eliminated from the competition on Wednesday.
Durrant’s fate was already sealed going into Night Eight at the Marshall Arena, but a fourth straight defeat for Cross, coupled with other results going against him, confirmed his early exit for the second successive year.
Both players are effectively playing for pride on Thursday when they face off in the opening match of the evening and will be determined to bow out on a high note.
Reigning champion Durrant has endured a torrid title defence, suffering seven consecutive defeats with sub-90 averages, and is now out to avoid becoming the first player in Premier League history to fail to register a single point.
Cross began strongly by picking up five points from his first four games, but a run of four straight defeats amid costly missed doubles proved fatal in his hopes of survival.
Dimitri van den Bergh continues to lead the way at the top of the table and will be looking to cement that position going into the break by overcoming an equally in-form James Wade.
Van den Bergh has amassed 12 points from a possible 16 so far and is already four points clear of fifth spot, with 19 points sufficient last year to seal a play-off place.
The World Matchplay champion has won all three games this week, registering ton-plus averages in his opening two before punishing numerous missed doubles from Gary Anderson in a 7-5 success on Wednesday despite an average of just 87.
Wade edged past the former World Youth Champion 16-15 in an epic Grand Slam Semi-Final last November and will be braced for another close-run battle here, albeit over a much shorter format.
The reigning UK Open champion looked to be in early danger of elimination after a three-game winless run to start the season but has since won four of his last five fixtures and has recorded three consecutive ton-plus averages.
The 2009 Premier League winner starts the night in fourth spot and could close the gap on Van den Bergh to just one point if he can pull off another impressive win here.
Five-time champion Michael van Gerwen remains well-poised in second spot after averaging 104.7 in a thrilling 7-4 victory over Jose De Sousa on Wednesday which featured seven 180s apiece.
The world number two has lost just one of his opening eight matches despite being far from at his best on a consistent basis and will now have revenge in his sights against recent nemesis Clayton.
Clayton came into the second week of action as league leader but has dropped to eighth after a three-game winless run, though he remains just one point adrift of the top four.
The proud Welshman defeated MVG in last year’s Masters and repeated the feat this year on his way to winning the title and with it securing a debut in this prestigious event.
Nathan Aspinall is level on 11 points with Van Gerwen in third spot and steps up his quest for back-to-back play-off appearances with a show-down against Gary Anderson.
Aspinall, who went on to reach the final last season, is enjoying a six-game unbeaten run and is already within eight points of the tally he managed on debut last year.
Anderson, meanwhile, has been left to rue multiple missed opportunities this week, with a win, a draw and a defeat to his name, but remains firmly in the mix on eight points.
The Scot squandered a staggering 22 darts at doubles in a 7-5 defeat to Van den Bergh last night and will be determined to brush up on the outer ring against a player in a rich vein of form.
The most prolific scorer in the tournament so far comes up against the most deadly finisher as Jose De Sousa faces Peter Wright.
Debutant De Sousa has landed an incredible 43 maximums in eight games, as well as a nine-dart finish, but saw his run of three straight wins ended by MVG on Wednesday.
The Grand Slam champion is one of four players locked level on eight points and will be confident he can stake a claim for a Semi-Final spot providing he cuts out trademark counting errors.
Wright, the 2017 runner-up, thrashed Durrant 7-1 on Night Eight to end a run of back-to-back defeats and avert his own elimination fears.
Snakebite defeated De Sousa 10-8 in last year’s World Matchplay and could move into the top four for the first time since the opening night if he can repeat the feat.
Night Nine of Premier League Darts gets under way from 7pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 12 legs. Two points are awarded for a win and one point for a draw.
Premier League Darts 2021 Night Nine Schedule
Thursday April 22
7.15pm Glen Durrant v Rob Cross
8.00pm Jonny Clayton v Michael van Gerwen
8.45pm Nathan Aspinall v Gary Anderson
9.30pm Jose de Sousa v Peter Wright
10.15pm Dimitri Van den Bergh v James Wade