Taylor must beat Hamilton
Rarely has the greatest player in the history of darts had a fortnight as bad as the one Phil Taylor has endured. Two defeats on the spin in the Premier League followed up by failure to make either semi-final of the weekend’s UK Open qualifiers have opened the door for the doubters to come charging through once more.
One of those weekend losses came to Michael van Gerwen making it two wins for the Dutchman over the Power in three days and adding weight to the claim that it is he that is now the dominant force in world darts. The second was even more worrying though as Taylor crashed out of Sunday’s event in the third round to the youngster and relative unknown Josh Payne who had never before been past the last 128 on the Pro Tour.
The Power needs to sort his game out fast and he has two chances to do so on Thursday when he plays two matches, the first of which being against Andy Hamilton. The Hammer dished out one of Taylor’s four defeats thus far when he battered him 7-3 in Manchester and is one character that is not intimidated by any opponent. He is exactly the kind of player that Taylor will not want to face now because he will not put in a bad performance, he may not put in a spectacular one, but you will have to be right on your game to beat him and he won’t be leant on.
Despite his recent woes and previous loss to the Hammer, Taylor goes into this one as a warm favourite at 4/7 with Paddy Power whilst Hamilton is out at 7/2 with Bet365. The underdog looks a great price at that but his form hasn’t quite been good enough to warrant backing him even against a struggling Power. Taylor’s weekend may have been a poor one by his standards but Hamilton earned even less money in Wigan. Often a good bet with the Hammer around is for the match to go a long way because he doesn’t know when he’s beaten and at 5/4 with Bet365, over 11.5 legs looks a good punt.
Second on could be the match of the night between Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld although Barney may not be looking forward to it after their first encounter in the league. MVG strolled to a 7-3 victory in Bournemouth and unsurprisingly he is favourite to prosper again at a best price of 10/11 with BetVictor. Plenty will be tempted by the fairly weighty 21/10 on Barney but it is just too hard to see Miighty Mike losing at the minute and I would be very wary of betting against him.
He had a better weekend in Wigan than anyone else, finishing runner-up in the first event and winning the second and having dished out a heavy beating to his compatriot in this tournament already his confidence will be sky high. Barney has been very good in this Premier League, but not really in the big ones, crumbling against MVG and Taylor and I expect him to lose again. If you are feeling cautious just take the 10/11 but if you want a bit of extra value take the 6/4 from Sky Bet on an MVG with -2.5 handicap.
Next up are two of the men who do not need to return to the stage later in the evening in Robert Thornton and James Wade. There is no doubt that Thornton will have been smarting after last week’s loss to Simon Whitlock; the Scot was 4-2 up and well ahead in the seventh leg only to toss it away and eventually lose 7-4 in a dramatic turnaround. Many have been waiting to see when the Thornton bubble would burst in this event and that potentially could have been the turning point.
Wade had an odd week last time out in Sheffield as he hammered Adrian Lewis first up and then returned to the stage to put in a fairly limp performance in defeat to MVG. His standard overall has been fantastic though and that is why he sits second in the table after 10 games.
If the Thorn responds well then it could be a tight one but Wade has been too good not to back, especially as he is still odds-against in places. Sportingbet obviously judge the match completely differently to everyone else pricing Wade at 23/20 when others have him odds-on, I think we should take them up on their generosity.
Phil Taylor v Andy Hamilton over 11.5 legs @5/4 Bet365
Michael van Gerwen (-2.5) to win @ 6/4 Sky Bet
James Wade to win @23/20 with Sporting Bet
• Whitlock great value against Wade
• Barney could batter Lewis
• Sorry Lewis set for fourth straight defeat
• Wade the value bet against Barney
• Whitlock is back in form
• MVG can hurt Taylor semi-final chances
• Hammer and Barney set for another tight one
• In form Newton to keep winning
• Whitlock and MVG value for big finish