Nicholson to make it fourth time lucky
The unique Championship League darts comes to a climax this week and with just two more places left in Thursday’s winners group the pressure is on for remaining players to make an impact.
Tuesday sees the seventh group of the tournament compete and as the event goes on the groups remain as competitive as ever with all eight men very capable of pipping the others to the winning post.
The returning players for group seven are Paul Nicholson, Mark Walsh, Colin Osbourne, Jamie Caven and Robert Thornton and they are joined by three high calibre performers in Michael van Gerwen, Brendan Dolan and Richie Burnett which leaves the group tantalisingly poised.
The favourite to progress from the group is newcomer Michael van Gerwen who is at 3/1 to make an instant impact and given his recent successes both in front of and away from the television cameras then it is easy to see why. The young Dutchman is developing the ability that only the very best players in history have shown, that is being able to go for sustained periods during which their opponent can simply do nothing but watch them accumulate legs. Power scoring and unerring finishing are things all professionals are capable of but doing it over numerous legs and matches is a rare commodity, but something Mighty Mike is showing he can produce.
Having said that though, his run of form was halted at the weekend by a man that is nearing the top of his game himself in Paul Nicholson. The Asset dumped van Gerwen out of the Dutch Darts Masters early on and went on to reach the final and pocket £7,500 for his troubles. Bolt this on to his Grand Prix quarter-final and the Geordie-Aussie is transforming what has been a barren year into a half-decent one. He has been in the tournament since Group Four which shows form in itself as although he hasn’t won a group yet, just surviving in this format takes some doing and at 11/2 to make it through at the fourth attempt looks a decent bet.
As mentioned, if any of the eight men can hit form then they are capable of winning the group on Tuesday with the likes of Burnett, Dolan and Osbourne being a little tricky to predict. Seeing any of the trio at the foot of the table or topping it would not be a massive surprise, so it’s best to avoid a wager on them.
The remaining three all reached the semi-finals of the last group so clearly have what it takes to make an impact in this format and Walsh continued his good form with a quarter-final appearance in Holland on Sunday so of the three his 11/4 looks most tempting. However, with van Gerwen and Nicholson looking most potent of late it is hard not to see one of these two men prospering. Given Paul edged out Michael at the weekend and has much more experience of the setup of this event, he may just have the edge.