If we put Premier League Darts 2014 in terms of being a student: Week 1 was a massive "Freshers" party where everyone turned up and had a great time, while Week 2 was the hangover the next day where you find someone you don’t know passed out in your front room, but you feel so bad you don’t even bother moving them.
If you had to pick a standout tie, it would be the Adrian Lewis v. Phil Taylor match, which saw the 16-time world champion succumb to his second defeat of the tournament—this time 7-3.
Despite an unusually low-scoring night of darts—just one 100-plus average, which was 100.57 from Lewis—there were still a few talking points to give us food for thought going into Week 3 in Belfast.
I wrote after Week 1 that Taylor’s career is far from over, and after a 140 and a 180 in the opening leg, it looked like he was set to repeat his weekend success against Lewis.
But five misses at double in that opening leg appeared to sap his confidence as he found himself 5-0 down.
He threatened a comeback as he pulled it back to 5-2, but Lewis was able to push on and take the match 7-3.
The longer Taylor fails to win, the more it will make the headlines—that’s how good he is.
However, he isn’t going to be playing the two best players—along with Taylor—on the PDC circuit in the second half of 2013 every week, as he has done with Michael van Gerwen and Lewis. Taylor will believe now that he can go on and win all of his upcoming fixtures in the Premier League.
He starts with Peter Wright in Week 3, who looked out-of-form and nervous on Thursday night—Taylor beat Wright (6-3) in the UK Open Qualifier. Simon Whitlock follows—though, he's looked out of sorts over the last two weeks—and then there's Gary Anderson (we will come to him in a moment).
In short, it’s not as doom-and-gloom for Taylor as may initially meet the eye.
Lewis summed up Taylor’s night. He told Sky Sports:
He started off like a train then he missed a couple of doubles which knocked his confidence again.
He’s still getting used to his darts and God help the rest of them now. I’m glad I’ve got him out the way.
Taylor may be sitting at ninth on the table, but I fully expect him to kick on strong from here and qualify for the play-offs.
Gary Anderson picked up his first Premier League points on Thursday night with a 7-2 victory over Simon Whitlock.
After an even start—which saw Whitlock lead 2-1—Anderson ran away with it, winning six legs in a row and taking the victory.
The biggest positive for Anderson—who registered the third-highest average of the night—will be the figures for his checkout percentage. He has struggled with his doubles over the last couple of years, so to hit seven out of 10 will mean a lot for him.
He will need to perform like this in Belfast if he’s to beat Robert Thornton. "The Thorn" kept an underperforming van Gerwen at bay, just missing out on points for the second week running with a successive 7-5 defeat.
Wes Newton secured what could be two valuable points against one of Week 1’s star performers—Raymond van Barneveld.
"Barney"—who hit a 108 average in Week 1—failed to find any sort of rhythm in the night’s opening match, finishing with an 89.69 average and a 7-5 defeat.
It showed Newton’s character in never giving up, with his will to scrap out matches on display, as he won four legs on the bounce to seal the victory.
It could be nights like this that sees van Barneveld miss out on the play-offs, such is the level of competition in the Premier League this year. Newton told Sky Sports viewers he didn’t expect to come away with anything going into the match but was relieved by his opponent’s poor display:
I was expecting a bit of a hiding really with the way Raymond played last week—he was phenomenal. He didn’t really turn up tonight but that’s not my fault—two points will do me.
Both players face tough games in Week 3 now. Newton will take on top-of-the-table Lewis, whilst "Barney" meets his fellow Dutchman, van Gerwen, who is second in the table.
"Barney" must write-off Thursday night and forget all about it.
To beat van Gerwen he will need to bring his A-game—and the performance he gave in Week 1 against Anderson should be sufficient to beat MVG. As I predicted pre-tournament, there would be a number of weeks in which we see a disappointing "Barney" performance—there could not have been a better example than Bournemouth on Thursday night.