By Phil Lanning
NATHAN Aspinall admitted it was a “great buzz” to get the fans back and KO Michael van Gerwen.
The Stockport star demolished a low-key MVG 8-3 in Milton Keynes with a 1,000 crowd back at the Premier League for the first time since March 2020.
It turned out to be a huge night for Aspinall as his win took him top of the table with just three league matches to go.
He said: “It’s a massive two points and it was a great buzz tonight. I was really nervous coming into the game because we’ve missed the fans, and win or lose I wanted to enjoy it tonight.
“This is what darts is all about, and I loved every minute of it. I think we were both trying too hard to play well but the crowd were got me through.
“I finished really well and when I get a bit of a lead I felt more comfortable. It wasn’t my best performance, but the two 120 finishes won me the game and it’s a very good two points.
“For me you’ve got the best player to ever throw a dart Michael van Gerwen looking out the curtain at the fans. That tells you a lot. We’ve missed the fans a lot. It brings an extra 10 or 20 per cent to the show, the adrenaline for us guys, it just means the world.”
It was also a big night for Jose de Sousa as he dumped Dimitri Van den Bergh 8-6 to leapfrog the Belgian into fourth place.
He said: “Every win is a big win here. I want to thank my fans and this wonderful crowd.
“I’m making my job easier because I was better on my doubles. A win is a win.
“I enjoy the Premier League. I come from Portugal and nobody thinks I can do this so I work very hard. I make big scores and my doubles are better. I feel great. This is the best tournament we can play. Every match is difficult to win.”
Jonny Clayton took a big step towards Play-Off qualification with a sensational 8-1 win over Gary Anderson.
Yet Ando didn’t play badly delivering a 104.48 average but missed five costly darts at double – incredibly four at bull – all legs which Clayton snapped up.
Anderson is now four points adrift of fourth place – with a minus seven legs difference – with just three nights left of the league phase.
Clayton said: “It was absolutely brilliant. It’s a massive buzz because the crowd makes darts, so it was amazing to get them back and the atmosphere was fantastic. I had a few people cheering for me and there were a couple of Welsh flags, in, so it’s a proud moment.
“I was so nervous before I went on but I relaxed and my darts kept going. I took my chances and I’ve done my job – I’m chasing a dream and I’ll keep turning up over the next three days and working hard.”
Peter Wright’s Play-Off hopes are hanging by a thread but he kept his hopes alive with an 8-4 win over James Wade.
He said: “The crowd make such a difference, it was amazing. They inspired me and I feel so alive – it was so nice being nervous backstage!
“All the crowd played their part because I’ve missed them. Last year I won my last four games to make the Play-Offs so if I’m playing well then everyone else has got to watch out.”
2021 Unibet Premier League
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Night 13, Monday May 24
Jonny Clayton 8-1 Gary Anderson
Jose de Sousa 8-6 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Nathan Aspinall 8-3 Michael van Gerwen
James Wade 4-8 Peter Wright
Night 14 – Tuesday May 25 (1900 BST)
James Wade v Nathan Aspinall
Jonny Clayton v Jose de Sousa
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Images by Taylor Lanning.