ROBERT Thornton is hoping that the all-Scottish clash with Gary Anderson can kick-start his Betway Premier League Darts campaign at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast tonight.
Thornton is joined by Simon Whitlock and Phil Taylor at the foot of the Premier League Darts table following the opening two weeks of the ten-player event, with that trio having lost each of their opening two games.
Thornton, who has been defeated 7-5 by Dave Chisnall and Michael van Gerwen so far this season, plays Scottish rival Gary Anderson in Belfast in Week Three, and has happy memories of their meeting in last year’s Premier League.
The former UK Open champion averaged 109.33 – the highest average recorded in last year’s event – in a brilliant performance as he saw off Anderson 7-2 in Exeter, limiting the 2011 winner to only two darts at a double in the game. Thornton is now hoping that facing the same opponent in Belfast will produce a similar performance, and result, to get his challenge in the tournament up and running. “It’s always special for me playing another Scottish player on the big stage and playing Gary last year seemed to bring the best out of me,” admitted Thornton. “I was on fire when we played last year and I’ll need to get back towards that form again because Gary’s been in top form in the last few weeks. My doubles have cost me in the two matches so far, so if I can tighten that up then I’ll be in with a chance.”
Thornton added: “I made my Premier League debut in Belfast last year too and beat Andy Hamilton that day, so I’ve got good memories going back there. Hopefully I’ll be leaving with a smile on my face too!” Anderson, the German Darts Championship winner at the start of February, bounced back from his opening-night loss to Raymond van Barneveld with a clinical win over Whitlock in Bournemouth last Thursday.
“I was a little bit unlucky to run into Raymond in Liverpool because he was unplayable on that night, but it was nice to get a win under my belt last week and I played really well,” said Anderson. “I’ve been hitting my doubles well and I’m really enjoying my darts at the moment, and that’s making me look forward to the Premier League nights. An all-Scottish game with Robert will be fun too and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s an important game for Robert too so I’m sure we’ll be getting stuck into each other.”
Six-time champion Phil Taylor, who has lost to Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis in the opening two weeks, is looking to kick-start his challenge against Peter Wright. Newcomer Wright, the World Championship finalist in January, has picked up three points from his opening two games and said: “I’ve never beaten Phil before and it will be a huge occasion for me to play him in a brilliant arena like Belfast. I’m pleased to have got a win and a draw in the last two weeks but I’m not happy with how I’ve played so I’m working hard on the practice board because I’ll have to improve against Phil if I’m going to break my duck.”
Australian Whitlock has lost to both Lewis and Anderson ahead of his Belfast meeting with Raymond van Barneveld, and said: “I need to get some points on the board and I’m determined to do that this week. I said before the season that this would be the closest Premier League ever and we’ve already seen that anyone can beat anyone on their day. I don’t want to be involved in the relegation battle after nine weeks so it’s important that I start to get some results, but Raymond’s a class player and I know how tough it’s going to be on Thursday.”