Premier League Darts 2021: Nathan Aspinall too good for Michael van Gerwen while Jonny Clayton into top four

Nathan Aspinall beat Michael van Gerwen to take top spot from the Dutchman as Premier League Darts welcomed fans back for the first time in more than a year.

17 days on from Night 12, when the second phase of the competition got underway in an empty Marshall Arena, more than 600 fans were in attendance for the first of five consecutive nights of action that will end with this year’s champion being crowned.

The headline act was last year’s runner-up and second-placed Aspinall against a resurgent Van Gerwen, who had won three games to go top during the most recent run of fixtures. But it was largely one way traffic as The Asp, roared on by the crowd, chalked up an 8-3 win over the five-time champion that took him top at Van Gerwen’s expense.

Jose De Sousa beat Dimitri Van den Bergh to knock the Belgian out of the top four, where Jonny Clayton moved into the play-offs spots thanks to an 8-1 thrashing of Gary Anderson.

Milton Keynes has stepped up admirably during the pandemic, hosting 43 of the 101 sessions to be played behind closed doors, so it was fitting that the first walk-ons, 180s and big finishes were cheered to the rafters at the Marshall Arena.

The race for the top four places takes centre stage with the crowd in attendance through the week, and ticket sales for the last two nights are already approaching 1,000 as the Premier League welcomes its first crowd since March in Liverpool more than a year ago.

  • Premier League Darts 2021: Results, fixtures, schedule
  • Updated Premier League Darts table

Premier League Darts: Monday’s results

Inspired Aspinall takes Van Gerwen’s top spot

An inspired Nathan Aspinall continued his bid to go one better than his runner-up finish last year with an 8-3 win over Michael van Gerwen that took him top of the Premier League table.

The pair are among the most popular players on the circuit. When The Killers’ Mr Brightside played out and the fans joined in the smile on Aspinall’s face was there for all to see – and it was no surprise to see him roar out of the gate.

With the crowd on his side, Aspinall claimed the opening leg with a brilliant 120 finish, broke the Dutchman in the next and consolidated again with a classy 75 for a 3-0 lead in the blink of an eye.

Van Gerwen stopped the rot, but Aspinall continued to push on, a second 120 finish in five legs of darts took him into a 4-1 lead, and when Van Gerwen – who missed the playoffs for the first time in his career last year – missed two darts at double top it was 5-1 to the man from Stockport.

Back-to-back three-figure finishes of 122 and 110 from Van Gerwen brought him back within touching distance at 5-3 – but he got no closer as Aspinall first halted the revival with a 13-darter, secured a point with a 14-dart leg and then wrapped up victory with another 13-dart leg.

The size of the win was enough for Aspinall to return to top spot and leave Van Gerwen looking up, and ruing a return to the inconsistency of the first phase of the competition.

Van den Bergh slide continues after De Sousa defeat

Jose De Sousa and Dimitri Van den Bergh kicked off the evening in play-off places – but it’s the Portuguese debutant rather than his Belgian stablemate who goes into the final three rounds in the top-four spots.

An 8-6 win over his stablemate moved the Portuguese Man O’Scores into second spot and extended his unbeaten run to five games – in fact he has lost just one of his last 10 matches.

De Sousa won the first meeting between the pair on night five and started well to open up a 4-1 advantage against an out-of-sorts Van den Bergh, who was struggling to find his range.

When the Portuguese missed two darts for a 5-1 lead, and Van den Bergh nipped in to draw within two, it looked like The Dreammaker might be on the comeback trail.

However, they split the next four to leave De Sousa just two legs away from the winning post and he secured his first point when he punished three missed darts from the Belgian at double 18.

Van den Bergh refused to cower and when De Sousa missed a dart at bullseye for a 164 finish that would have given him the win, the Belgian was within one. However, that was as good as it got as a 15-dart leg secured the maximum return for De Sousa who is enjoying a debut to remember.

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On-fire Ferret blasts past Anderson

Gary Anderson and Jonny Clayton had the honour of becoming the first players to be welcomed to the Milton Keynes stage, but it was Clayton who walked away with his top four hopes in tact after an 8-1 victory.

The Ferret has thrived behind closed doors, scooping up the World Cup, The Masters and a couple of Pro Tour titles as the PDC has adapted to the coronavirus pandemic – and the return of the crowd did nothing to stem his spectacular form.

The pair shared six maximums and both averaged in excess of 100, but finishing was the difference as Clayton hit eight of his 14 darts at a double and Anderson pinned just one of his eight – admittedly five of those darts at double were for big finishes.

After the first two legs were shared – Anderson firing in a pair of 180s on his way to claiming the first leg, much to the delight of the crowd – Clayton took out five in succession to move into a 6-1 lead.

And he secured his point when he pinned the bullseye for a superb 124 finish after Anderson had narrowly missed out on stopping the rot with what would have been a roof-raising pair of bullseyes.

Anderson missed a chance to grab a second leg when he missed a dart at double top after Clayton strayed into the wrong bed but he was back after the Scot’s failure to secure a big win and a big improvement in his leg difference.

Wonderful Wright denies Wade

Peter Wright ended James Wade’s play-off hopes with an impressive 8-4 victory over the 2009 Premier League champion in the evening’s finale.

The Scot was unable to secure a top four spot courtesy of his struggles a fortnight ago, but he returned to winning ways in front of a partisan Milton Keynes crowd to register his first win since Night Eight.

Wade made a blistering start to proceedings, opening his account with an 11-darter en route to establishing a 2-0 lead, but Wright responded superbly, reeling off four straight legs – featuring two 11-darters of his own – to seize control.

The terrific standard continued as Wade stopped the rot with a 12-dart hold, but the crucial moment came in leg ten, with Wright leading 5-4.

‘The Machine’ appeared poised to level up at five apiece, but Snakebite restored his two-leg buffer with a 103 kill and this broke Wade’s resistance, as Wright won the next two legs to prevail with a 98.68 average.

The 2021 Premier League continues this week, with four more nights of action culminating with the Play-Offs on Friday, May 28. Watch all the action live on Sky Sports.

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