Not at Whit's end
Rod Harrington is backing Simon Whitlock to bounce back from his drubbing at the hands of James Wade.
Last Updated: 04/04/12 2:54pm
The Premier League field is so evenly-matched this year that I'd have bet my house on not seeing an 8-0 whitewash.
So I was particularly surprised to see someone like Simon Whitlock get beaten so heavily last week, but you have to give credit to James Wade because he really stepped it up.
Every year he seems to start slowly in this competition and then after four or five games he gets going. He forced Whitlock into making mistakes and once he was 5-0 down there was all sorts of pressure on the Aussie.
However, Whitlock is very resilient. He'll be angry and embarrassed after losing 8-0, but he doesn't over-think the game and there's no question he'll bounce back because he's a great player. All great players have hiccups in their careers.
Wade now moves on to meet Adrian Lewis, who had a crazy night in Cardiff, losing to Andy Hamilton and then beating Raymond van Barneveld in the last match of the night.
He admitted to me that he didn't prepare properly for the first game and it was another example of him putting himself in a great position and failing to close out the game. He could have another four points on his total if he took out the doubles at the end of matches that he does at the start.
But in his second match last week we saw the real Lewis. The crowd were giving him a bit of stick and he took out 160 in the first leg, which got him really fired up. When the crowd's against you then you can sometimes use it to your advantage as much as when they are behind you.
Lewis got annoyed and fired himself up, which is something I like to see. He took the game to Barney, showed grit and determination and it was a joy to commentate on him in that form.
I told him afterwards he needs to impose his game on his opponent rather than stepping back and waiting to see what they throw at you. He was on the offensive for the whole time last week and Barney, who has been playing well, couldn't live with him.
The Premier League table is now extremely tight. Usually a couple of players are out of the running for the top four by this stage, but if you exclude runaway leader Phil Taylor, there's only two points separating the other seven players.
All of the players are in the hunt for the play-offs and that what makes this competition so good.
Kevin Painter v Raymond van Barneveld
Kevin Painter can forget about his loss to Phil Taylor last week and I think it's good that he'll get Barney out of the way nice and early in the season too. His fixtures are quite kind because when you get to the end of the season and you're desperate for two points you don't want to play Taylor or Barney.
Kev has been scoring well early on in games, but if he misses a few doubles he tends to get frustrated. He mustn't do that (although that's easier said than done) because that frustration then affects his scoring and he doesn't get as many shots at doubles. He needs to stay calm and try not to tighten up. He also needs to take the game to Barney early, like Lewis did last week, but I think he's got a battle on his hands. He's capable of beating Barney, but if you go by the form book you'd have to take a Barney win.
Adrian Lewis v James Wade
I get fed up of seeing hugs and kisses in sport, so it's great that these two players don't like each other very much. James Wade is playing some lovely darts at the moment and has been taking his ton-plus shots out beautifully.
However, Lewis' match against Van Barneveld last week was as good as I've seen him for two years and that was all down to his aggression on the dart board. If he brings that game this week then he will beat Wade, but otherwise it's going to be tough. As a result, I'm going to bottle out of this one and say it's got a draw written all over it! What I will say is that it should be the game of the night, and I expect it to have the most 180's and the highest checkout.
Andy Hamilton v Phil Taylor
I don't give Andy Hamilton any hope... but I don't think anybody has much hope against The Power. Hamilton (or 'The Streetfighter' as I call him) just needs to go up and play his own game. He's been playing well and will feel he should have a few more points on the board.
Hamilton gave a good account of himself the last time he played Taylor and if he can take his doubles out early on then he could get a couple of quick legs on the board. Taylor probably only fires on 80 per cent before the break - but in the second half of the match he's on 99 per cent and if you don't keep up with him then you're on the slow boat to China. Phil's averaging 104 or 105 as a matter of course at the moment and Hamilton will need to do something exceptional to get near him.
Simon Whitlock v Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson returns after missing last week's event to attend the funeral of his father, but I think when he gets on stage and the adrenaline starts pumping then he will be able to put that out of his mind. He's a free spirit in darts and sometimes things go well for him, sometimes they don't. It's hard to predict.
Whitlock will be up for it after losing 8-0 last week and if Anderson struggles with his throw early on I could see him winning. But it's another game that could easily end up as a draw and that's my call for this one. It could go either way, depending on who is firing before the break.