GARY ANDERSON returned to action for the first time since the World Championship Final with a 6-4 win over Justin Pipe in the first round of the Players Championship Finals in Doncaster on Thursday night.

The Scot bounced back from his Alexandra Palace loss to Adrian Lewis with a strong display against Pipe, who practises with Anderson in Somerset and threatened an upset at times in a tight game.

Anderson hit five of the nine 180s in the game and averaged almost 103 as he set up a second round clash with Kevin Painter on Saturday, with the 2004 World Championship runner-up edging a dramatic clash with Wayne Jones.

“I’m relieved to have won against Justin because I was nervous going into the game,” admitted Anderson. “I know just how good Justin is and I was a bit rusty because it’s a month since I’ve played competitively.

“I was pleased with how I scored and it’s a good start, and I’ll be looking forward to playing Kevin on Saturday night.”

Painter led 5-3 at one stage in his clash with last year’s European Championship finalist, but Jones hit back to force a deciding leg only to see his opponent finish 90 on the bull to take victory.

Colin Osborne and Dennis Priestley also won 11-leg battles at the Doncaster Dome, both coming from 5-3 down in clashes with Denis Ovens and Andy Hamilton respectively before edging through.

Priestley will now take on house-guest Colin Lloyd – who is staying with the 60-year-old in nearby Mexborough – in Saturday’s second round, after the former world number one defeated Jelle Klaasen 6-4, while Osborne meets Telford’s Steve Farmer.

Farmer produced arguably the most impressive display of the night to defeat number six seed Mark Walsh 6-1, hitting a brace of 121 finishes in the process, while Jamie Caven defeated Wales’ Barrie Bates by the same scoreine.

Caven’s second round opponent will be Andy Smith, who hit six doubles from as many attempts in a flawless display of finishing as he saw off Ronnie Baxter 6-2.

The first round concludes on Friday night with the remaining eight matches, including world number one Phil Taylor against Steve Brown, Simon Whitlock taking on Tony Eccles and World Champion Lewis up against Steve Beaton.

World number three James Wade plays Mark Dudbridge, and former Lakeside Champions Mark Webster and Richie Burnett are also in action at The Dome in the internet-streamed event, which can be viewed at www.pdc.tv.

Tickets for the Players Championship Finals are still available, priced at £20 and £25, by calling 01302 370777 or in person at The Dome’s Box Office.

Players Championship Finals
Thursday February 3
First Round
Denis Ovens 5-6 Colin Osborne
Andy Hamilton 5-6 Dennis Priestley
Mark Walsh 1-6 Steve Farmer
Jamie Caven 6-1 Barrie Bates
Ronnie Baxter 2-6 Andy Smith
Wayne Jones 5-6 Kevin Painter
Gary Anderson 6-4 Justin Pipe
Colin Lloyd 6-4 Jelle Klaasen

Friday February 4 – 7pm start
First Round
Vincent van der Voort v Terry Jenkins
Mervyn King v Co Stompe
Wes Newton v Richie Burnett
Mark Webster v Alan Tabern
Simon Whitlock v Tony Eccles
James Wade v Mark Dudbridge
Phil Taylor v Steve Brown
Adrian Lewis v Steve Beaton

COLIN OSBORNE 6-5 DENIS OVENS
COLIN OSBORNE battled back from 5-3 down to win the final three legs of his first round clash with Denis Ovens at the Players Championship Finals.

The Derby ace produced the strongest finish in the race to six legs as he set up a second round meeting with Steve Farmer on Saturday at the Doncaster Dome.

Ovens made the better start, punishing three missed doubles from Osborne in the opening leg to lead on double nine and – after the Derby man returned from more misses to take the second – finished 280 in five darts for a 2-1 lead, following a 180 with a neat 100 finish.

Osborne took out 64 on double 16 in the fourth, but Ovens won the next two, thanks to double top and double ten, to open up a 4-2 cushion.

Osborne defied a 180 from Ovens to take the seventh with an 89 finish, but Ovens landed another maximum and a 130 bullseye finish for a 5-3 lead as he moved to the brink of victory.

Osborne lifted and hit a 180 in the next, with a key double eight with his third dart keeping him in the game, before a two-dart 80 finish forced a decider.

Ovens hit another maximum in the 11th leg, but missed darts at double 12 and double six for the win, and Osborne hit double eight for the win.

“It’s a big relief to get through, especially after being 5-3 down,” said Osborne. “I should have taken the first leg and Denis threatened to pull away from me, but I finished well at times.

“The main thing was to get the win and hopefully that continues through to Sunday night.”

DENNIS PRIESTLEY 6-5 ANDY HAMILTON
HOME hero Dennis Priestley battled back from the brink of defeat to take a 6-5 win over Andy Hamilton in the first round of the Players Championship Finals at the Doncaster Dome.

Priestley, who lives eight miles from The Dome in Mexborough, trailed Hamilton 5-3 before winning the final three legs in superb fashion to snatch the win.

A see-saw game saw Hamilton punish misses from the two-time World Champion by taking out 78 in the opening leg, before the 60-year-old hit a 180 in levelling and double top in the third, after his opponent saw a 180 go to waste with two missed doubles.

Hamilton took out 139 to level in the fourth, and broke in the fifth to lead.

Priestley won the next with a superb 11-darter, but Hamilton took the next two for a 5-3 advantage as he moved to the brink of a second round spot.

However, a classy 115 finish from Priestley gave him the ninth, and he landed a 180 in the tenth to force a decider, in which he posted another maximum.

Hamilton hit a 177 in reply, but then missed double 11 to take out 142 for victory before Priestley returned to hit double ten for the win.

STEVE FARMER 6-1 MARK WALSH
STEVE FARMER produced a brilliant display to power past Mark Walsh 6-1 and book a second round clash with Colin Osborne in the Players Championship Finals.

Farmer, who won his maiden Players Championship last September, left the number six seed reeling by taking the first five legs without reply before securing the victory in style with a second 121 finish of the game.

The Shropshire ace finished 74 for the opening leg and 121 on the bull in the second, before a two-dart 91 finish saw him move into a 3-0 lead.

He hit a 180 in the fourth before taking a second break of throw on double three after Walsh missed two darts at double top to get off the mark.

Walsh also wasted a host of chances to win the fifth, with double eight putting Farmer one leg away from the win.

Farmer also kicked off the sixth with a maximum, but was left waiting on 40 as Walsh took out tops to finally get off the mark.

Farmer, though, swiftly wrapped up the victory in the next, hitting the bullseye again to complete a 121 finish and finalise a fine display.

JAMIE CAVEN 6-1 BARRIE BATES
JAMIE CAVEN made a fine start to the Players Championship Finals with a 6-1 win over Barrie Bates as he progressed to the second round at the Doncaster Dome.

Caven swept past the Welshman in style, dropping just one leg and hitting two ton-plus finishes as he moved into the last 16.

He hit a 180 to settle any early nerves in the opening leg, which he took on double five before checking out 122 on the bull to double his lead.

Double 16 gave him the third, and after Bates saw one dart at tops go begging in the fourth Caven hit the same bed for a 4-0 lead.

Bates finished 96 to get off the mark in the next, but Caven edged closer to the win on double top and took out 114 to secure victory.

ANDY SMITH 6-2 RONNIE BAXTER
ANDY SMITH produced a flawless display of finishing to sweep aside Ronnie Baxter 6-2 at the Players Championship Finals in Doncaster.

Smith hit six doubles from as many attempts with a brilliant performance as he set up a second round clash with Jamie Caven on Saturday.

Smith posted a 180 in the opening leg and, after Baxter missed the bull for a 121 finish, took out double 16 for the first time.

He went on to hit the same bed at the first attempt to win his next three legs, with only a double ten finish from Baxter in leg three stopping the Studley ace’s run, which also included a 101 finish.

A two-dart 98 finish from Smith moved him 5-1 up, before Baxter produced his best darts of the game with a pair of 180s and double 16 for an 11-dart leg.

However, Smith was swift to seal victory by finishing 81 on tops for a 12-darter as he progressed.

KEVIN PAINTER 6-5 WAYNE JONES
KEVIN PAINTER landed a bullseye finish to edge a dramatic 11-leg contest with Wayne Jones in the first round of the Players Championship Finals at the Doncaster Dome.

Painter looked set to grab defeat from the jaws of victory after allowing Jones to come from 5-3 down to force a decider, only to take out 90 on the bull to seal a last 16 place.

Painter could well have wrapped up the game before the deciding leg had he not missed chances in earlier legs, with nine legs during the game going against the throw.

Both players hit 180s in the opener before double eight put Painter ahead, only for him to then twice miss his chances in the second as Jones levelled on double 16.

Painter landed the same bed to win the third, but missed double top for a 3-1 lead as Jones again levelled.

Jones was then punished for five misses of his own as Painter edged the fifth on double two, with a two-dart 81 seeing the Wolverhampton man level.

Jones missed a further five darts to take the seventh, with Painter returning to the oche to hit double eight with a tricky third dart, before holding throw for the first time in the next on double top for a 5-3 lead.

A 180 and double 16 saw Jones begin his fightback in the ninth, before double one from the European Championship runner-up sent the match into a decider as Painter spurned two darts for the match.

However, the Daventry-based ace made no mistake under immense pressure in the final leg, hitting the bullseye for a 90 finish in edging the win.

GARY ANDERSON 6-4 JUSTIN PIPE
GARY ANDERSON returned to action for the first time since the World Championship Final with a 6-4 win over Justin Pipe in the first round of the Players Championship Finals.

The Scot bounced back from his Alexandra Palace loss to Adrian Lewis with a strong display against Pipe, who practises with Anderson in Somerset and threatened an upset at times in a tight game.

Anderson hit five of the nine 180s in the game as he set up a second round clash with Kevin Painter on Saturday.

After Anderson hit a 90 finish to take the first leg, the pair traded 180s as Pipe won the second with an 81 checkout before the next two were also shared.

A 76 finish on the bull gave Anderson the fifth, with Pipe finishing 124 on the bull in the next to level after a 180 from the Scot helped him leave a double only to be denied a shot.

Double nine saw Anderson move 4-3 up, and he then hit two 180s and double five in the eighth to finally put daylight between the players.

Pipe hit back to win the ninth, landing a third 180 of the game and eventually posting double one to pull back to 5-4, and he posted another maximum in the next.

However, he missed two darts at double 15 for a 90 finish, and Anderson stepped up to take out 94 in two darts to seal the win.

COLIN LLOYD 6-4 JELLE KLAASEN
COLIN LLOYD made Jelle Klaasen pay for missed double as he progressed to round two of the Players Championship Finals with a 6-4 victory.

The former World Matchplay champion will now take on Dennis Priestley in Saturday’s second round, after a confidence-boosting win over the Dutchman.

While Klaasen held throw to win two of the opening three legs, Lloyd levelled in the fourth on tops and then stepped in after misses from the former Lakeside winner in the next two to take a 4-2 advantage.

Klaasen, who had missed seven darts at doubles in the previous two legs, then won the seventh with a sublime 12-darter, following up a 180 with a quick-fire 154 finish to reduce the gap to one leg.

Lloyd finished 90 on tops for a 5-3 lead, with Klaasen hitting the same bed to win the ninth leg but missing a dart to keep the game alive in the next as the Essex ace recovered from a host of missed match darts to hit double one and progress.

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