A reporter’s eye view of the FA Cup of Darts – Saturday Afternoon

Saturday was less about alcohol and more about darts. Feeling gratefully chipper we went behind the scenes, invited into the press area to cover proceedings from inside as well as out.

The commentary team were in good humour, John Gwynne as warm and welcoming as ever, and the PDC, led by Dave Allen, always extend the welcome mat when attending these events. Even the coffee tasted ok. The place was awash with sweets and treats courtesy of the Speedy Hire team who were having plenty of fun interacting with the world via Twitter and Facebook.

The drama opened with a belter of a match, Paul Nicholson recovering from 5-1 to win 9-8 in a deciding leg against Gary Anderson. It was a tough draw for both so early in the tournament but Nicholson held his nerve, and sweaty darts, the best to prevail.

Citing trance DJ Armin van Buuren as an inspiration is a novel line from a darts player, the pumping music puts Nicholson in a good frame of mind to relax and concentrate. Although I can’t see the likes of Dennis Priestley following suit and sticking some Tiesto on his iPod.

Click here for our engaging post match interview with both players.

The press area is an interesting location to follow the progress of the matches; you get a bird’s eye view from the balcony and can watch the coming and going of the players (mainly victors but occasionally a sporting loser) as they arrive for interview duties, answering the Speedy Six, and to hold up a clutch of Speedy signs with fans messages tweeted through.

The PDC cameramen are in and out taking it in turns to snap the action and the catalogue the best photos for press use. John McDonald lounges near the back between MC duties, cracking the one liners and chatting to anybody within earshot.

The commentators rest their vocal chords between duties and swot up on the next match, quite possibly involving a relative unknown in this event. It was nice to learn that DartsMad.com is an essential tool in the armoury of the commentary team when doing their homework!

The slightly surreal element was the time lag between the live action and the Sky Sports feed to the giant television. Hearing the cheers or groans two seconds before the image appeared in front of us meant we always knew whether the throw would end in success or failure.

Back with the action, round four saw Dave Chisnall making his Sky Sports debut; the Morecambe man obliged with a three figure average and stunned Ronnie Baxter in a class performance. Mark Hylton is flying this weekend and glided past Andrew Gilding. One of our outside tips for this weekend, John Part, missed five match doubles before another of our tips, Robert Thornton, won 9-8.

Wes Newton is looking in great shape. Rileys qualifier, John Bowles, rolled over Steve Beaton. James Wade is now among the favourites after beating Terry Jenkins and Richie Burnett poured water on Joe Murnan’s party.

Another Rileys qualifier Andy Boulton is having a dream weekend and finds himself in the last 16. Youngsters Michael Smith & Reece Robinson ended their journey falling to Barney & The Pieman. Mark Webster staged the comeback of the weekend coming from 6-0 down to win 9-8 against Co Stompe who did a Devon Loch near the finishing line.

Last 16 draw highlights – Taylor v Nicholson and Barney v Newton. The way these four are playing it would be no surprise to see Newton & Nicholson back tomorrow. Two of Andy Smith, Denis Ovens, Peter Wright and Mark Hylton are guaranteed to be in quarter finals, demonstrating the romance of the cup!

Saturday Evening

Following a sojourn to the pub for a burger and beer tea where we watched Michael van Gerwen get a kicking at pool and England go two goals down to the Swiss, we were back to the venue for a tasty evening selection of darting battles.

The DartsMad money went on Hylton (looking a good bet in a closely matched tussle), Thornton (tipped to wing in under the radar since the start) and Ovens (perennial dark horse who is made for this tournament). Wes Newton had a real chance against Barney, as did Nicholson against Taylor but both were tough asks.

James Wade played solidly but Richie Burnett hung in and then raised his game, averaging over 100 as they neared the conclusion. A missed double top from Burnett at 6-7 tilted the game in Wade’s favour as he took the same finish out on the third dart and went 8-6 ahead before wrapping up the win.

Wade entered in round one on Thursday night and is cruising through the rounds, looking like any mental scars have healed. It remains to be seen how he reacts when put under intense pressure under the stage lights.

Peter Wright made the early running but Mark Hylton pegged him back, got to 7-7, and then moved 8-7 in front before closing it out 9-7 to avoid a nerve jangling sudden death leg. How Hylton achieves such accuracy with his throwing style is beyond me but his hard work is obviously paying off and he is putting some good tournaments together to make his way on the PDC circuit.

Mark Webster kept his run going as he steamrollered Boulton with finishes of 164, 147, 146 and 108 en route to a comprehensive 9-4 win.

Robert Thornton broke Colin Osborne in the first leg to gain immediate advantage and a topsy turvy match where breaks were traded eventually went in the Scot’s favour, 9-7 to the Thorn.

Paul Nicholson dominated Phil Taylor but the Power hit back to take it to a decider where he surprisingly crumbled hitting shots of 45 and 43 when it mattered most. The Asset took the 9-8 victory .

Newton put in arguably his best TV performance and battered a dazed looking Barney 9-1. 53 year old, and 3 stone lighter, Denis Ovens, gobbled up a quarter final spot taking out Andy Smith 9-6. Dave Chisnall ended Bowles’ dream run with a comfortable 9-4 win.

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