FRIENDSHIP will go out of the window as Wes Newton, Dave Chisnall and Robert Thornton battle to avoid elimination from the Betway Premier League Darts on Judgement Night in Cardiff on Thursday.
One player from the trio will be knocked out of the Premier League at the half-way stage on Thursday alongside Simon Whitlock, the Australian ace who sits two points adrift at the foot of the league table following eight games.
Newton, Chisnall and Thornton all sit on six league points going into Judgement Night, with the Scot boasting the better Leg Difference of only -1 ahead of his clash with Phil Taylor.
Crucially, though, Newton and Chisnall face each other, with the winner assured of a place in the remaining weeks of the tournament or a draw leaving Newton – whose Leg Difference of -13 is the worst of the trio – hoping that Thornton loses to Taylor for him to survive.
“It’s going to be exciting and it’s great for the competition that it’s all come down to this week,” said Newton, the 7/10 favourite to be relegated with sponsors Betway. “Dave’s in the same position as me, and it’s good that we’re playing each other.
“It’s sudden-death really and if I win then I’ll stay in, but if I don’t then I could be going home. It’s all to play for and I know what I’ve got to do.
“I’ve got to be ready and bring my A-game, and I know that two points will secure my place in the competition. You’ve got to produce your best game and not make any slip-ups
“It’s a crunch game for all of us and it’s going to be very interesting for the neutrals and the crowd to watch. That’s what it’s about, we want everyone to have a good time, enjoy themselves and go home happy.”
Newton also suffered Premier League elimination on Judgement Night last year, alongside Gary Anderson, and admits that any thoughts of his friendship with Lancashire-based Chisnall will be left behind when they head to the oche.
The Fleetwood ace added: “I’m really good friends with Dave. We live quite near to each other and we’ve travelled together for the past eight weeks so it’s going to be a hard game for us both, but at the end of the day you’ve got to get on stage and want to win.
“It’s an individual sport and the rewards are there, so I’ve got to forget the friendship and get my head down and try and get the two points.
“I’ll give it my all because I want to stay in the Premier League as much as anybody. We’ve played lots of times before and it’s difficult but you have to put your friendship aside.
“It could be worse – boxers fight their friends and have to knock them out! We’re just playing a game of darts, and we’ll shake hands afterwards.”
Chisnall, the 2013 World Grand Prix finalist, is enjoying his debut season in the Betway Premier League Darts but has been left to rue four draws since claiming victory on the opening night in Liverpool.
“I’m loving it, and even when I’ve not got the results I’ve still enjoyed the crowds and the rest of the experience,” said Chisnall, who drew in a high-quality clash with Adrian Lewis last week in Dublin.
“I’ve been trying to take it one game at a time, and I felt good last week. I wanted to get a point in Dublin so that at least I could take it to the last game against Wes.
“Last week in Dublin, I went off around the shops with Wes on the Thursday so I don’t know what I’ll do this week, because I’m playing him!
“I love it that it’s between us and I’ll be going out to win it, but hopefully I can hit my doubles like I did in Dublin and I’ll be okay.”
Former UK Open champion Thornton, meanwhile, takes on resurgent six-time Premier League Darts winner Taylor in the final game on Judgement Night as he also bids to survive into the second half of the season.
The Scot has also won one game this season and drawn four of his last five matches, but is in confident mood ahead of his clash with Taylor – having defeated the Stoke star in the 2012 UK Open final as well as in last year’s Premier League.
“I probably should have been safe by now as I’ve ended up drawing from winning positions a couple of times – but it’s still in my own hands and I think most players would’ve taken that due to the quality of the field,” said Thornton.
“Phil has been playing well lately but I know I can beat him if I play my best game, because I’ve done it before. It may turn out that I don’t need to, but whatever the situation is when I get on stage I will treat the match like any other – as a game of darts that I want to win.
“A point or two points could be vital not only for survival but also to boost my chances of reaching the Play-Offs at the end of the year.
“I really enjoy playing in the Premier League and I want to stay in it so I will certainly give it all I’ve got. It is a brilliant tournament and I’m sure it’ll be an extremely exciting night in Cardiff.”
While the focus on Judgement Night will be on the games involving the stars battling to avoid elimination, the race for Play-Off spots continues in the three other games at a sold-out Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.
Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen takes on Whitlock as he bids to maintain his status as the league leader going into the second half of the season, although he insists he expects a tough game against the eliminated Australian.
“It’s great to be at the top of the table but I’ve put a lot of work in to get there and I’ve got to stay focused,” said van Gerwen. “I’m seeing Simon as just another opponent and I just want to win the game.
“He’s always a dangerous player and you can never underestimate anyone in this Premier League. He’ll be trying to win the game because he’ll want to get some pride after being knocked out, but I know what I can do and I think I’m the better man in form.”
The stars placed third and fourth in the league table, Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis, clash in a tasty fixture between two players who share seven World Championship victories.
“I’m looking forward to it because I always have great games with Barney,” said Lewis. “Barney’s a special player and if you don’t score well and take your chances, he’ll turn you over.
“I’ve got eight weeks left now to try and stay in the top four and I won’t be relaxing because I don’t want Raymond to get further ahead of me in the table. I’m unbeaten for the last three or four weeks and that’s a good thing.”
Van Barneveld has lost just once so far this season, and drew with great rival Taylor in Dublin a week ago to continue a run of four successive stalemates.
“Adrian has been playing some awesome darts recently, and he beat me 9-2 in the UK Open so I know I have to focus against him,” said van Barneveld.
“It’s a great competition and anyone can beat anyone in this Premier League, and every week it’s hard work but that’s what we’re here for. I’m working hard on the practice board and I’m enjoying myself.”
The night’s other game sees second-placed Peter Wright face fellow Scot Gary Anderson, the 2011 Premier League champion who sits just one point outside of the top four following a strong start to the year.
“Peter’s done well and won most of his games so far, but I’ve been playing well this year so far and I’m feeling good about my game,” said Anderson.
“My scoring’s been good and I’m hitting my doubles so I’ll be trying to keep that going this week.”
Betway Premier League Darts
Robert Thornton (6pts, -1 Leg Difference)
Is safe with a win or a draw.
Would be safe if Chisnall wins by any score, or if Newton wins 7-3 or better.
Dave Chisnall (6pts, -5 Leg Difference)
Is safe with a win or a draw.
If he loses 7-5, he would need Thornton to lose 7-0 to have worse Leg Difference, other results could mean Legs Won Against Throw come into play.
Wes Newton (6pts, -13 Leg Difference)
Is safe with a win.
If he draws, needs Thornton to lose to survive.
Is eliminated with a defeat.
|19:15||Anderson, Gary||Wright, Peter|
|19:50||van Gerwen, Michael||Whitlock, Simon|
|20:35||Lewis, Adrian||van Barneveld, Ra…|
|21:10||Newton, Wes||Chisnall, Dave|
|21:45||Taylor, Phil||Thornton, Robert|