THE final place in the McCoy’s Premier League Darts Play-Offs will be up for grabs as the league season concludes in Newcastle on Thursday – with James Wade, Robert Thornton and Simon Whitlock fighting to claim a spot in the Play-Offs.
With Michael van Gerwen, Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld all securing their Play-Off places with wins in Liverpool last week, the remaining semi-finalist will be decided on the 14th league night.
While 2009 Premier League champion Wade travels to the Metro Radio Arena in fourth place, Scottish star Thornton knows that victories in his two games in Newcastle will see him leapfrog the left-hander to seal a semi-final finish in his debut season.
Wade lost both of his matches in Liverpool but sits on 16 points, one ahead of Thornton, and takes on Taylor in Newcastle in his final league game as he aims to reach the semi-finals for the fifth time in six seasons.
“It would have been nice to have qualified already but I will prepare myself to go and get the job done on Thursday,” said Wade. “It hasn’t gone my way in the last few weeks but I’m in the best position of the three fighting for the last spot at the moment.
“In the end it will be about who has the most points over 14 weeks, not just what happens in one night. If I’ve got more points than four other players, then I’ll deserve a place in the semi-finals.”
Wade drew with Taylor in Exeter in their last meeting, and added: “I’m looking forward to playing Phil, we had a good game last time out and I expect it to be the same in Newcastle.”
Thornton, meanwhile, will play van Barneveld in the night’s second game before later returning to face van Gerwen as he seeks a double of wins over Dutch opposition.
“It’s great that it’s still in my own hands,” said Thornton. “All through the season I’ve just taken it one game at a time, and that’s what I’ll do on Thursday.
“I don’t fear anybody and I’m just enjoying being up on the big stage taking on these players. If I do manage to do enough to get into the Play-Offs it would be a massive achievement.
“I won a Players Championship last Saturday so that’s a boost to my confidence and if I can take the form which I showed there into the Premier League then I’ll be happy because I’ll take some beating.”
Whitlock, meanwhile, sits two points adrift of Wade and one point shy of Thornton as he prepares for a double-header against Adrian Lewis and van Barneveld at the Metro Radio Arena.
“It would be huge if I can qualify,” said Whitlock. “I nearly went out on Judgement Night but I set myself a goal after that of making the semi-finals and I’ve still got a chance.
“I feel really confident and I’m looking forward to Thursday night. I’ve played some really good darts in the last month or so and I believe I can do it.”
Although van Gerwen currently sits three points clear of Taylor and van Barneveld going into the final league night, he could still be overtaken as the final league leader by the five-time World Champion should he win both of his games in Newcastle.
“It would be fantastic if I can finish top and it would mean a lot to me,” said van Barneveld. “I want to win every single match and it will be tough this week but I’ll do my best.
“Making sure I was in the Play-Offs was the most important thing and I’ve done that, but if you come out at the top of the table then it means you’re the most consistent player over the last three months.”
Taylor, meanwhile, ends the league season against Wade having turned his campaign around with four wins and a draw from his last five games.
“I’m looking forward to this week and I’m having a big push to get ready for the Play-Offs,” said Taylor. “I want to win and win well against James to make sure I’m ready for the semi-finals.”
The night’s other fixture sees Adrian Lewis – who will finish bottom – take on Stoke rival Andy Hamilton, who could still end the season above Whitlock as the players battle for additional prize money based on finishing positions.
“I want to finish as high as possible and it would be brilliant to finish the season with a win,” said Hamilton. “We can both relax and hopefully we’ll have a superb game.
“Adrian’s shown some flashes of his best recently, but I proved last week against James Wade that I can play some great darts too and I want to take that into this week.”
A small number of tickets for Thursday’s McCoy’s Premier League Darts at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle are still available by calling 0844 493 6666 or by visiting www.metroradioarena.co.uk.
The McCoy’s Premier League Darts will be screened live on Sky Sports 3HD from 7pm on Thursday, as well as live on RTL7 in the Netherlands, Sport1 in Germany, OSN across the Middle East, Fox Sports in Australia and through www.LIVEPDC.TV.
McCoy’s Premier League Darts
May 9 – Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle
Andy Hamilton v Adrian Lewis
Robert Thornton v Raymond van Barneveld
Adrian Lewis v Simon Whitlock
Phil Taylor v James Wade
Michael van Gerwen v Robert Thornton
Simon Whitlock v Raymond van Barneveld