Premier League: Raymond van Barneveld draws some comfort
There were only two firm conclusions to draw from the 12th night of the Premier League.
Phil Taylor is in the form to beat anyone else in the competition, with the exception of Adrian Lewis, and Gary Anderson will not be defending his title in the play-offs.
Other than that anything is possible, with six players chasing the three available places left, and nothing was decided at the Echo Arena in Liverpool with three matches ending in draws.
Raymond van Barneveld is still out of the top-four places but would probably have settled for that at the halfway stage of his match with Andy Hamilton.
Van Barneveld was 4-1 down before the five-times world champion began to claw his way back into the match.
The Dutchman checked out on 76 in two darts to reach 4-2 going into the interval before breaking throw following three missed doubles from Hamilton and finishing double 16, and then 14-darter then saw him win a third successive leg and square the match.
The two swapped legs thereafter with the Dutchman hitting three 140s to be first to a finish in the penultimate leg, only to miss two darts at double 12 as Hamilton landed double 16 for a 14-darter. But Hamilton could not take the final leg for victory, with three more 140s giving van Barneveld the edge before he took out double top to share the points.
"I'm happy to take a draw from that," Van Barneveld said to pdc.tv. "I've got a good record against Andy on TV but he's a fantastic player and every time I play him it's tight. It wasn't my best performance and my scoring wasn't great, but I'll look forward to next week now."
The draw was Hamilton's third in a row, and he admitted: "It's good to get a point but I'm not getting the wins I want. We all want to be in the top four but we also want to put in a good performance and I'm still not out of it, I'll still be fighting at the end. I've only lost one game in the second half of the season, against Phil Taylor, which shows that I've been improving.
"My whole season has been about battling. I probably deserve more than I've got but I'm still learning, I enjoy it and love being on this stage."
Anderson, the defending champion, knows that his time on the Premier League stage is limited to the last two nights of the league format after a 7-7 draw with Adrian Lewis meant he cannot qualify for the latter stages. And James Wade knows that he is not safe yet after a 7-7 draw with Kevin Painter when he had to come back from 4-1 and 7-4 down to snatch what could yet be a valuable point.
Painter looked on course for an upset against the 2009 champion with 11 and 10-dart legs but missed two darts to win the game 8-4 and Wade reeled off three legs in a row instead.
The only winner on the night was Phil Taylor, who came back from last week’s defeat by Lewis to beat Simon Whitlock 8-3.
Whitlock took a 3-1, which included a 161 checkout to win the fourth leg, but then Taylor won seven successive legs to ensure that he will end the regular season at the top of the league table while Whitlock remained second in the table.
"Losing last week gave me a kick up the backside and when I went 3-1 down I was a bit worried," Taylor said. "Simon played really well and put me under pressure, but he missed a crucial 65 in the sixth leg and that was my chance.
"I'm delighted to have won again and I know I'm in the semi-finals, but it's very open for the play-off places, and it's the best Premier League I've played in.
"You could see the pressure which Simon was under and the other players are fighting for places too, so it will go down to the wire."
And it is too early to draw conclusions as to who will join Taylor in those play-offs.
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