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PDC - Darts: Smith in search of Devon cream

Premier League Darts is back after a week off with one man, in particular, in desperate need of a much-needed win at the Westpoint Arena in Exeter.

Three weeks into Premier League Darts 2022 and seven of the eight-man field have already got points on the board as they all head down the M5 to Exeter for Night Four.

With a win and a runner-up in the new-look format, Jonny Clayton leads the way on eight points, closely followed by the two men who won on Nights One and Three, respectively, Peter Wright and Gerwyn Price.

However, the one player without a point is Michael Smith, back in the event after being snubbed last year, but so far, finding the going tough.

'Home' draw against Cullen is Bully Boy's chance

It's played three, lost three for Smith so far, whose odds on taking the title have drifted to 16/1. Yet there had never been any indication going into this year's competition that he would struggle.

Smith, of course, had a brilliant Christmas beating the likes of Clayton and Price to reach his second world final, which he lost to Wright.

It was a performance which saw him shoot up to No.5 in the world and guaranteed him a return to the Premier League, a year after having been overlooked for the invitational event, a snub which left a few scars.

Everything looked okay for Smith at the Masters where he played just two games, but in one of them, the silky smooth St Helens chucker averaged 105.5 and was pipped 10-8 in the other.

But then came Night One, a game with Wright and it all went wrong. An 88.57 average, a 6-3 defeat and no points. A week later and among friends in Liverpool, there was an improvement, but the same outcome. This time the average was upwards of 95 but another 6-3 loss, this time at Clayton's hands.

And so to Belfast last time out and a third successive 6-3 loss, this time against Price.

One of the few crumbs of solace for Smith is that the player he lost to in round one did at least go on to win that night's event, so was playing well. (Which should offer plenty of encouragement for Joe Cullen, who Smith meets in his opener in Exeter).

But Smith threw really well in Belfast, averaging 103.55. It's just that Price, who finished him off with a 170 checkout and would later bundle home two nine-darters, was throwing out of his skin.

Smith won a couple of games at the International Open in Germany over the weekend and should be trusted to get it right against Cullen. He's drawn first, so throws first, and looks worth a punt at 8/11 to finally clock up his first points of the tournament. 

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Brace yourself for another Price-Wright thriller

World No.1 status was on the line when rivals Gerwyn Price and Peter Wright met in the International Open final on Sunday, and it was the Iceman who held on to the position with an 8-4 win.

It wasn't just the win but the manner of it – Gezzy averaged an astonishing 106.95 and missed just one of nine attempts at a double.

That's two finals between Price and Wright this year – one on the Pro Tour and then Sunday's showdown – and it's a win apiece. The third match comes in Exeter with Price at 8/11 and Wright an 11/10 chance and on current form, Price is pretty much impossible to ignore. 

Will the real MvG please stand up?

Darts fans are still awaiting the rebirth of Michael van Gerwen and maybe it'll come in Exeter where the Dutchman is 9/2 to take the spoils.

To do so, he first needs to beat Jonny Clayton, who he lost to in Liverpool on Night Two. And that means showing better form than he has thus far.

The five-time Premier League winner just hasn't clicked this year and once again, in the International Open in Riese over the weekend, he succumbed early in the tournament, this time to Danny Noppert, the type of player he used to beat with his eyes closed back in his pomp.

The Green Machine is 1/1 against Clayton in the night's opening match, with the winner taking on either Smith or Cullen in the semis.

The last quarter-final pits 10/11 Gary Anderson against 10/11 James Wade. Wade is in better shape overall – five points to Anderson's two – and it does look like one that could go the distance.

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