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Silverback has evolved into a contender and should progress

| 15.11.2013

It’s the first of the quarter-finals at the Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton and our News team have previewed the night’s two big matches.

Tony O’Shea to beat Robert Thornton @ 11/10

Tony O’Shea kicks off what could be a historic night for the pride of the BDO as he attempts to eliminate another thrower from its rival organisation.

The Silverback notched one of his most significant victories of recent years with a 10-7 win over last year’s PDC World Championship runner-up Andy Hamilton in the last round and will be rightly confident of making his first ever semi-final of the dual-code event.

Victories over BDO colleague Ricky Evans and old foe Mervyn King were enough to seal his position in that shootout with The Hammer but perhaps the best barometer of the level he is operating at came in his last-leg defeat to defending champion Raymond van Barneveld. O’Shea won three successive legs to lead 3-2 at one point before Barney’s class came to the fore, but the fact that O’Shea was able to stay with him offers plenty of encouragement for tonight’s match.

Robert Thornton doesn’t represent the same challenge as the Dutchman but it’s easy to see why the Scot starts as 8/11 favourite as he has been one of the most consistent performers in the game in recent years. Three victories in smaller events this year have confirmed that the 46-year-old still knows where the finishing line is and a debut for The Thorn in the Premier League was just reward for regularly turning up and producing.

However, in what is only their second meeting – Thornton beat O’Shea at the Lakeside in 2008 – preference is for the Englishman to continue the fine representation of his often maligned organisation. Both players come in to this in great heart but O’Shea’s victory over Hamilton and close shave with Barney represents better form than his opponent has offered and makes the price of 11/10 an attractive one.

Ted Hankey to beat Scott Waites +4.5 @ 5/6

PDC new recruit and genuine villain of the stage Ted Hankey continues to surprise in Wolverhampton, producing one of the most unexpected comebacks in the history of the game when overcoming a 6-1 deficit against the high-class Simon Whitlock. That 10-9 win was a welcome return to form for The Count who has made a decidedly inauspicious start to his controversial PDC career. Injuries, illnesses and plain poor performances threatened to consign the latter stages of the two-time World Champion’s career to the small corners of darts history but he has shown this week that he can still be a force to be reckoned with.

He faces the 2010 winner of this event, Scott Waites, who is no stranger to Hankey having been a leading part of the BDO make-up for much of his career, starting favourite for that organisation’s World Championship for the last few seasons. Waites can’t throw at the level of The Wizard but he is arguably stronger in the mind, something that is possibly more useful when facing a persona like Hankey. The Australian was clearly distracted by the shameless charade of self-deprecation and exhausting celebrations of Hankey but Waites is the type of player who can ignore even the most trying histrionics.

After losing his first three matches to The Count, Waites has fought back with this week’s 5-3 group match victory, his third from their last four encounters. However, none of those wins have been by a margin of more than two legs leaving the 5/6 quote that Hankey wins the match with a 4.5 leg handicap lead an appealing one.

Waites’ pedigree and previous success in the competition – he reached the final in 2009 and made this stage last year – justifies his favourites tag and he should win, but nothing this week suggests it will be a mauling. Hankey is confident and crucially content and it would be a big surprise if he wasn’t to continue his form and keep it competitive at least.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Sam Foster