IT was a great night in Dublin last week – the players loved the crowd and only Phil Taylor let me down in my six predictions.
There were a couple of lucky results like Michael van Gerwen beating Adrian Lewis but last week seemed to be the most predictable of all weeks in the Premier League. Tonight will be a little different.
It’s week 12 and there are six more games in Birmingham at the NIA. It’s important for those on a bad run to forget the previous week but that’s hard in the Premier League.
In other tour events you can have a bad week and come up against a lesser player and get on a run. That’s impossible in this event. It’s every Thursday and you’re playing top players all the time. One loss and you could be thinking of relegation and that all adds extra pressure.
We haven’t really talked too much about the top four because of the battle for relegation but the pressure is now really on.
I have to say a lot of players are looking tired. They could do with finding out what makes them tick at a good standard to sharpen them up. The one thing missing in this sport is few players bring in a coach or a friend if things are going badly. Even if they did, I don’t think they’d listen!
I really like Andy Hamilton and Robert Thornton, though They get up there and play their hardest – if they lose they just get on with it. I really like that attitude.
So on to Tonight's matches in Birmingham.
Phil Taylor v Adrian Lewis
Taylor got a draw with Barney last week, he’s fourth and still need points to guarantee fourth place and go to the O2. Lewis is in the worst form and his head is in the worst state I’ve seen in a young man.
He’s an incredible talent but he’s just missing doubles. That’s making him want to score heavier and he’s pushing and pulling the darts. I can’t see him doing it tonight and Phil will be up for it. Adrian has got to literally turn his form around overnight and throw his best darts for 18 months.
My advice for Adrian would be to stay away from Phil – don’t practice with him on the same board and just go up there and try to enjoy it. That’s easy for me to say but when you enjoy it your arms aren’t so tight and you don’t pull your darts. If he can get into Phil in the opening two legs Lewis with his ability could easily turn the game around. The form book, however, says he won’t.
ROD’S CALL: Taylor win
Simon Whitlock v Michael van Gerwen
Simon’s had a couple of good weeks and really needs to win every game to make the top four. Meanwhile, Van Gerwen is on such a high. He’s the player Taylor’s been for 20 years. It doesn’t matter what’s happened to him in the previous three darts or legs, he doesn’t care. The only thing important thing is the next dart and that’s why he’s got such a great attitude.
That’s why Van Gerwen is so hard to beat and even Taylor is struggling against him. You just can’t intimidate him. He loves the game and I can only see Van Gerwen winning. He’s got that extra scoring power and Simon will have to look at some big check-outs at crucial times if he’s to have a chance.
ROD’S CALL: Van Gerwen win
Robert Thornton v Andy Hamilton
This is a tough match to call. They are both solid players and two consummate professionals with their play and conduct. Hamilton has relied on his double 16 and eight but he’s been missing them in the last three weeks.
Thornton has been brilliant this year but he too has gone off the boil. This will be a close one and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a draw. Perhaps Thornton will have the edge.
ROD’S CALL: Draw
Raymond van Barneveld v James Wade
This could be the game of the night. Wade has probably been playing his best darts for four years over the last few weeks. He’s another player who’s got his brain in the right gear and who isn’t worrying too much about his opponents.
Barney played well last week but was letting people off at crucial times. In this field he’ll get crucified and can’t afford to slip-up against Wade.
Wade has been prolific, especially with 124 and 120 check-outs but this will be close and could easily be a draw. Barney has his fluency and natural ability and he’ll be facing a man who’s a solid professional. It’s like George Best playing Kevin Keegan! Keegan was not the most naturally gifted and had to work so hard, while Best was rubbish for most of the game and would then score two goals.
In darts, the solid pro wins eight out 10 times. Wade is a 90-minute man and you have to play so well to get anything off him.
ROD’S CALL: Draw
Phil Taylor v Simon Whitlock
Phil has got to get a four-pointer on Thursday. Whitlock has not had the best results against Taylor but the difference between these two is Phil can play two big games in one night and keep the same standard. Simon struggles with that and it may be his downfall. He’s got the ability but playing a second game in Birmingham will hurt Simon more.
ROD’S CALL: Taylor win
Adrian Lewis v Robert Thornton
This is all about their first match of the night. If Lewis loses his first game or plays badly it will be tough for him. If Thornton beats Hamilton I can only see him beating Adrian. The form book says Thornton but I’ve just got this feeling Lewis could do it. He’ll know he can’t make the top four so may get up there and be relaxed. We may just see the real Lewis in Birmingham and he could pull it out of the bag.
ROD’S CALL: Lewis win. Just