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PDC - Darts: Can Anderson stay in the play-off race?

Two-time Premier League winner Gary Anderson is already playing catch-up as the competition heads to Nottingham for Night Six action from the Motorpoint Arena.

With five rounds gone and still another 11 to go, it's probably too early to be panicking over positions in the standings – except maybe for anyone who's had a bet on Gary Anderson.

As the eight-man field heads to Nottingham for Night Six, the Scot is bottom of the shop on just two points which, because of the length of the campaign, wouldn't necessarily be seen as a disaster. He, like the other three players sitting outside of the playoff places, has plenty of time to recover.

The question for Anderson is, does he have the appetite for the slog? And if the answer's 'no', then 4/5 he walks off with the wooden spoon at the end of May, might just be the bet of the tournament.

Undercooked or fresh-to-go

Anderson, as his career has gone on, has made no secret of the fact that he's not bothered about travelling around the world chasing prize money, nor is he not overly-fussed about exhaustive practice regimes.

He has other bug-bears as well – slow play and grandstanding opponents are two that spring to mind – but the Scot's record means he has earned the right to have a view on others and how he approaches his game.

And by not travelling, he reckons he can stay fresh for big nights, like this one at the Motorpoint Arena where he takes on Jonny Clayton in his opener. The Flying Scotsman's the 13/8 outsider, Clayton a 1/2 shot.

But Anderson's detractors would say that his light workload is actually becoming a hindrance; that he's now under-cooked going into games, and that only time spent on the big stage will keep him lean.

And his form figures suggest something may have to change. So far this year he has played just 17 matches, but lost 10 of them.

He has appeared six times in the Premier League, nine times on the floor with a couple of first-hurdle exits at the Masters and UK Open tacked on. He also had no interest in qualifying for the two European Tour events staged in Germany.

Clayton, his opponent in Nottingham, has played 34 matches – exactly twice as many as Ando. And all the top pros will tell you that there's nothing like playing games to stay sharp.

Anderson has never whistled to that tune but the upshot is that now, at the relatively venerable age for a darter of 51, he's showing signs of rust. His Premier League average is 94 thus far, almost four points lower than a year ago and a week ago in Brighton he averaged a flimsy 85.7 in a crushing 6-1 first-round defeat at the hands of Michael Smith. 

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Is Clayton clash a chance to strike?

Anderson needs to find a spark and maybe a game against Clayton is where he ignites.

You wouldn't have said that a couple of months ago, or at any stage over the last 12 months, a year in which The Ferret has been absolutely outstanding.

But suddenly he too is on the slide. It's nothing as dramatic as Anderson's decline but after back-to-back finals on the opening two nights of the Premier League – winning one – he has sustained two first-round defeats and a 6-2 semi-final mauling by Smith last Thursday in Brighton.

Clayton is third in the table on ten points so can hardly have any grounds for real concern, and if he starts well against Anderson, the odds are that he goes on to win comfortably.

Van Gerwen returns to the head of affairs

The big strides over the last couple of weeks have, of course, been made by five-time Premier League champion Michael van Gerwen.

The Dutchmen, starved of real success for so long, is back with a bang, winning in Exeter on Night Four, Brighton on Night Five and completing a hat-trick with victory in the German Darts Championship on Sunday.

He's now 9/4 to win the league and with the old swagger back, the Green Machine is going to take all the catching.

The 32-year-old stars in arguably the tie of the night in Nottingham, against Gerwyn Price – except that Gezzy is still troubled by the hand injury which forced him to pull out last week. Van Gerwen is 4/6 to take care of the Welsh recently deposed world No.1 and 3/1 to go on and win Night Six.

Wright hoping back stands up to test

Price, 4/1 to win in Nottingham and 4/1 outright, isn't the only player under an injury cloud with Peter Wright heading to Nottingham after pulling out during last weekend's German Darts Championships.

He suffers from gallstones and a bad back and has been looking inconvenienced of late and this could represent a golden chance for Joe Cullen, who must be thinking it's Christmas come early.

Cullen was scheduled to play Price last week and was therefore handed a 6-0 win courtesy of the Iceman's no-show and now it looks as though Snakey might not be feeling tip-top. And if that is the case then Rockstar, the most inconsistent of performers, might represent a sliver of value at 6/4.

The evening kicks off with an all-English shootout between Michael Smith and James Wade, with Smith 1/2 and Wade 13/8.

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