It is the closest ever finish to a Premier League race and on Thursday in Newcastle, FIVE men will battle it out for TWO play-off spots!
Team Unicorn’s Raymond van Barneveld, James Wade, Kevin Painter and Andy Hamilton, along with World Champion Adrian Lewis are all in the mix to join Phil Taylor and Simon Whitlock in the semi-finals.
For both Painter and Hamilton, it is an incredible achievement. In their debut season in the PL, the darting duo have been terrific additions to the tournament, more than justifying their inclusions.
And it is fitting the pair will go head-to-head at the Metro Arena in the North East to try to win a play-off place.
The winner of their showdown will move to 13 points and keep the hopes alive!
Painter, who thrashed Lewis 8-3 in Birmingham, is full of confidence.
“Me and Hammer have lived and loved the Premier League and I know that has come across. We have belonged and one of us could make the semi-finals. Hopefully that will be me!” he said.
Painter switched to new slim flights a month ago and it has certainly done the trick. “Unicorn came up trumps again! The flights go through the air cleaner and it has made a difference for me.”
Painter is also the king of finishing, with an incredible 16 ton plus check-outs already, but Hamilton’s form in the second half of the season has kept him in the hunt.
“I had a run of defeats which hurt me,” he admitted. “But hard work has got me into this position and one more big effort could just be enough for me. It will be some game! Kevin deserves a lot of credit too and may the best man win!”
But it could yet be out of their hands…..Lewis, Wade and Barney all have 12 points, so if Lewis beats Whitlock and there is a winner in the Barneveld/Wade clash, it will mean Painter and Hamilton cannot qualify.
But if Whitlock beats Lewis in the opening match of the night, the winner of the Painter/Hamilton showdown will be through!
So, who can hold their nerve when it really matters?
Barney and Wade will be a cracker.
If their match is draw, it opens up all sorts of possibilities, but for the winner – the spoils! The pair both know that victory will be enough to clinch their place at finals night at the O2.
Barney is playing well and remains confident, but Wade will have to put his heavy defeat at the hands of Taylor out of his mind.
Their fate will be decided in half-an-hour of thrilling darting action!
Taylor’s game with Anderson will be in effect, an exhibition match at the end of the night, but by the time the pair go on the stage we will know the semi-final line-up for the O2
So many permutations and possibilities and the Unicorn website will be across it all on Thursday from Newcastle.
Thursday’s Order of Play:
Adrian Lewis v Simon Whitlock
Andy Hamilton v Kevin Painter
Raymond van Barneveld v James Wade
Gary Anderson v Phil Taylor
By STUART PYKE
Photo courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC