HOME COMFORTS FOR GURNEY AS UNIBET PREMIER LEAGUE VISITS BELFAST
DARYL GURNEY will enjoy a Unibet Premier League homecoming as the tournament visits The SSE Arena in Belfast on Thursday, as the battle to avoid elimination continues.
With just a week remaining before the Premier League's bottom two players are eliminated on Judgement Night, Northern Irish ace Gurney is aiming to secure his status in the event on home soil.
Gurney followed up four previous draws in the event by claiming his maiden victory last week by seeing off Mensur Suljovic in Glasgow.
Having moved up to six points, Gurney sits four points clear of bottom-placed Gerwyn Price and two clear of Suljovic and Peter Wright, who have claimed just four points in the opening seven weeks.
Gurney takes on World Champion Rob Cross in Belfast, and said: "Every time I've had a draw I've been in front, so I was just glad to get a win last week.
"It means so much to me because I want to be here for the whole 16 weeks, not just to make up the numbers. I've had to be patient and it came to the fore on Thursday with the two ton-plus finishes.
"My scoring has been up there but my finishing percentage has probably been down at the bottom so I know what's wrong. Hopefully with a bit more confidence around doubles I can get another win."
Thursday will be Gurney's first televised appearance in his homeland, and the 32-year-old added: "I can't wait to play in Belfast
"As soon as we get picked, the first thing we look forward to is playing in front of our home crowd and I hope the place is bouncing.
"I'm looking forward to playing Rob, I want to play the best and beat the best and he's World Champion, so I can't wait."
Cross has now won five successive matches to move into third place in the table, and hopes to maintain that form as he makes his own Belfast debut.
"It's going well and I've turned around the two losses at the start of the season," said Cross.
"It was good to win again last week and I'm still feeling good. I want to win every week and you can't always do that, but I'm in a good place and I'm playing well and I want to keep that going."
Dutch rivals Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld clash in another high-profile fixture in Belfast, in a repeat of the 2014 Premier League final.
Van Gerwen is now two points clear at the top of the table and has won five straight matches, but believes that he can still improve as he bids to retain the title.
"There's more in the tank," said Van Gerwen. "I've not been playing my best yet but I'm going okay and winning my games and that's what I have to do.
Sometimes that's a strong point because nobody remembers what average you threw, just that you won. Of course I want to play to my best but I have to focus on Raymond and getting the two points.
"I want to keep winning and keep my form going."
Van Barneveld has picked up five points from his last five games to move into fourth place in the table, and is aiming to produce a memorable performance against the world number one.
"I'm feeling okay at the moment and working hard but I feel I can do better," said Van Barneveld. "It was two big points last week, a massive win.
"The belief is back, the pressure is off now and maybe now my form will be better. I want to perform well in Belfast - I've got Michael this week and I want to play my A-game.
"To beat Michael is going to be tough but it's not impossible. If I play like I can, I can do anything I want."
Gary Anderson moved onto seven points with his win in Glasgow, and will be mathematically safe from elimination if he picks up a win or a draw against Suljovic.
"Getting the win last week was important and I'm making progress," said the UK Open champion. "It's a long road so hopefully I'll keep picking up but it's been a bit hit and miss for me at times
"The next four or five weeks are crucial, and if you get past Judgement Night you've got to keep getting the wins."
Winless Price faces a crucial clash with Michael Smith as the Welshman bids to keep alive his hopes of escaping from the elimination battle.
Under-pressure Wright, meanwhile, plays Simon Whitlock as the Scot bids to continue his revival, having lost three successive Premier League matches 7-1 before reaching the weekend's European Darts Open final.
Eigth Night's Matches:
Mensur Suljovic v Gary Anderson
Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Raymond van Barneveld v Michael van Gerwen
Daryl Gurney v Rob Cross
Simon Whitlock v Peter Wright