Disappointment at the Palace as Gary bows out

I usually start these reports with a nod to the games prior to the one you’re here to read about – to give a nod to the crowd mood and any general themes running through the session, and this report is no different. In both games prior to Gary’s, the players who took early leads ended up departing the competition. Ryan Searle lost from 3-0. Danny Noppert from 2-0. It seemed that starting well was a punishable offence on the stage – and Gary was hoping not to be a victim of the losing leaders curse – or at least receive a visit from the Ally Pally wasp for good luck. Either way, as he came onto the stage, the usual warm reception was offered by the crowd, who always await his arrival eagerly, wherever he may roam.

The match opened with Gary finding a 96, before Dobey laid down a statement of intent, by registering a maximum with his opening arrows of the match. It was a treble a visit over the course of the leg, culminating in a 134 to leave Tops. In typical Gary fashion, he made us hold our breath as he nailed D10 with the last dart in hand to secure the early hold. (0) 1-0 (0).

Clearly the first leg was enough for Gary to feel sufficiently warmed up, as he proceeded to rush through the second leg. A Ton followed by back to back 140s left 121, which he took on the Bull, having hit the T17 to set up. A break at the earliest opportunity, and the Tartan Titan looked to be in control of Set One. (0) 2-0 (0).

Back on throw, Gary started with a 115, before following that up with his maiden maximum of proceedings, and following with a 138 to reach 68 after Nine Darts. Ending up on Tops, he wasn’t going to turn it down, and nailed it for a 12 Darter to sweep the first set with a 115.5 average, and with his opponent having precisely zero darts at double. Cushty stuff from a Scotsman who was truly was Flying. (0) 3-0 (0).

Set 1 : Gary Anderson 1-0 Chris Dobey

The set was on the Dobey Darts, and Gary started with a less than stellar 42 (the meaning of darts?). Something that was noticeably absent in Set One as Gary went about his business so professionally was the stray darts I’ve written about a few too many times over the course of my time in this role. The 5 and 1 beds were suddenly receiving a lot more air fare than previously, and it was costing the 2x World Champion with Dobey picking up his game. Gary wasn’t even on a finish when Dobey nailed the double, but, it wasn’t on his throw, so no harm no foul for the time being. (1) 0-1 (0).

Gary seemed to re-find that first set magic with the darts, as he notched consecutive 140s, before a 57 to leave 164. With time on his hands, he was able to hit the straight ton to leave 64, which he killed in two on D8, taking his conversion rate on the outer ring to a healthy 4/6 and levelling the set. (1) 1-1 (0).

As far as bad luck goes, the third leg of the set wielded arguably the most skilful of all the varieties of bad luck in our sport – the robin hood. With 40 points scored, and a treble much coveted, his final dart in hand hitched a piggyback on the flight of one of the previously thrown darts. This after back to back 60s to start the leg leaving Gary behind. A 140 then brought him to life, and with 80 on the board, Gary gave Jose de Sousa a clear lesson in how to do Tops-Tops from that position, nailing the sweet spot at the top of the shop twice in two darts to break and go within a hold of a 2-0 lead. (1) 2-1 (0).

The fourth of the set was arguably one of the highest quality legs of the match thus far. A slow start in the leg again from Gary, notching just 134 points from his first Six Darts, before Dobey slammed home a 180, and Gary responded with a 140. Two treble visits were a common sight for the rest of the leg, and with 96 left on the table for the set, Gary hit a S20, before deciding on a Double-Double route, hitting the D18 before wiring the D20 for the set. He wouldn’t return the oche to try again, as Dobey hit his remaining Tops with second in hand to level the set. (1) 2-2 (0).

Despite Dobey not having the greatest start to the decider, Gary couldn’t capitalise. A Ton played 60 in the Flying Scotsman’s favour after the first visit, and when one found trebles, the other would find them as well. Two set darts were available to the Flying Scotsman, as a 140 left 83, before he nailed the T17, and came well inside on the D16 and wide on the D8. Dobey came up and converted the D16 to level a match he should potentially have been two sets down in. (1) 2-3 (0).

Set 2 – Gary Anderson 1-1 Chris Dobey

Another issue I’ve touched on in previous reports is the way that the lie of darts has been used detrimentally in previous matches. Whilst it wasn’t perfect here, it was a damn sight better than I’ve seen in years, let alone from when I started reporting on his games. A 140 start from Gary, courtesy of beautiful use of markers. Dobey responded in kind, but as the leg progressed Gary pulled away, and was able to set up 24 off of 124, and decided to make it nervy, but eventually ended up on D3, and second dart in hand managed to hold. (1) 1-0 (1).

Gary found a nice rhythm of sorts in the second leg of the set, starting with a 77 and following it with his second 180. And, although some good set up play left him with a Two Dart combo of 66, Dobey managed to also get a bullseye finish on the board, off of 86 for a level set and a completely level match once more. (1) 1-1 (1).

And if you like things being level, Six Darts into the third leg that’s where we were again. A Ton and a 140 from Gary played a 60 and 180 from Dobey. Both on 261 after Six, things took a turn down Dobey drive. Gary left a bogey 168 to give Dobey time, and Gary subsequently made a hassle out of setting up the 76, and with first dart in hand at D15, having set it up from 130, Dobey nailed it for the break and the chance to throw for the set. (1) 1-2 (1).

Well, the threat of losing the set seemed to relight a fire in Gary’s Scottish hands, as, after a 60 start, he walloped home a 177-180 back to back. After the first dart went into the T3, he was able to clean up and leave D4, and, as Dobey left a bogey of 159, it couldn’t have mattered less as Gary nailed D4 at the first attempt to send us to another deciding leg. (1) 2-2 (1).

Gary started with a 137, finding two T20s before making the switch down south, but he could only back that visit up with 58, and a 59 after that. However, Dobey’s best moment of the match came at the back end of this leg, as he hit a 171, all on the 19s, to leave 36 for the set, which he took to take the set against throw. (1) 2-3 (1).

Set 3 – Gary Anderson 1-2 Chris Dobey

The fourth set was the first one since play began that players didn’t have the luxury of departing the stage at the end of the last set, and Dobey was back to oche just moments after a potentially momentous double hit. Not that you would have known, as he started with one treble, and found three in the next visit for the full house. After Dobey missed opportunities at D16 and D8, Gary had an opportunity to pounce after leaving himself Tops. A low dart at Tops, and two the wrong side of the D10 wire left all of the Dunvegan Enterprises Match Reporters in East Sussex with their heads in their hands (that’s right, all one of them!), awaiting the painful call of ‘Game Shot’, which followed after Dobey hit D4 to hold at the start of the set. (1) 0-1 (2).

Gary was much improved in the leg, and managed to reach the Big Fish after Nine Darts. He only scored 40 despite a distinct lack of pressure from his opponent. Dobey then proceeded to leave himself on a bogey, after looking for a 25 and landing a 19. Gary was clinical on the 72, going T16-D12 to level the set in a decisive manner. (1) 1-1 (2).

The vigorous trebling that wreaked so much havoc earlier in the tie had started to subside on Gary’s end, which unfortunately coincided with Dobey starting to find the bed on a more consistent basis. The highlight from Gary in this leg was a 140, but otherwise the trebles were finding themselves hard to come by. Little pressure was on Dobey and he did his job efficiently enough to go within a leg of a two set lead. (1) 1-2 (2).

The most interesting moments of Leg Four came at the back end, when Dobey came close to a 160 out. Having nailed the two trebles, his dart at Tops wasn’t exactly close, but it left the target of Tops should he return. Gary hit a Ton off of 150, and after Dobey made a mess of that 40, Gary, with last dart in hand, found Tops to take the set to a decider as he looked to level the match. (1) 2-2 (2).

Things looked promising in the set decider…for the first three darts. A 140 start suggested a competitive leg, but the trebles wore thin, and eventually Dobey made it to D16, and Dobey won the set, meaning Gary would have to go back and take from his sensational comeback over Ian White last year were he to progress.

Set 4 – Gary Anderson 1-3 Chris Dobey

Gary started the make or break set on his darts with a 128, utilising the T18, which he wasn’t hugely effective on at times throughout the match. Dobey went one better and landed the 174, before 134s were traded. Dobey didn’t need asking twice to break on D8 and break at a crucial point in the match. (1) 0-1 (3).

Both started the Second Leg with a Ton, before Gary finally battered the Treble bed three times in a turn for the first time in what felt like forever. He again found a bit of combination finishing, this time 91, converting it on D16 to break back and level. (1) 1-1 (3).

Finishing was again the key topic on the agenda of interest. Dobey was a Bull away from a 121, but found a S17, and The Flying Scotsman found two T20s, but came just inside on the D15. Gary, however, followed that up by committing a cardinal sin. With 15 left on the board, he wanted the S7 to leave D4, but bust his score by planting his arrow in the S19 column. And Dobey had a date with D16, taking it out and going within a leg of the match. (1) 1-2 (3).

And, as is too often the case, the deciding leg saw Gary’s scoring desert him. Like my attempts at dating – it wasn’t for the lack of trying, but it just wasn’t happening. When the odd treble did arrive, he couldn’t back it up with more. Dobey had enough times to get to Tops, hit it, and secure a fixture against Cross or King in the next round. (1) 1-3 (3).

Result – Gary Anderson 1-4 Chris Dobey

Average – 93.87
180s – 4
Highest Checkout – 121
Checkout Percentage – 42

The Verdict:
That was tough to take. I said to my Dad after the first set, and I quote “I bloomin’ well hope he hasn’t peaked to early.” (and I DID say “bloomin’”) and sadly he had. A scintillating first set, and, really, it’s not like he played badly! One of those days when the right darts flew, but too often at just the wrong times. Anyone who claims that he’s finished or whatnot can take it up with me – there are still titles in this man. It is a hill I will die on. If the practice with Ryan Searle continues frequently and he comes into events, both stage and floor, with practice in the arm then he’ll win titles in 2023. Whether he’ll undertake Euro Tour qualifiers and the like remains to be seen, but it remains clear that if he puts time into his arrows away from the PDC limelight, he’ll leave said limelight with glory.

Rankings wise – It looks like, at the time of writing, Gary will be outside the Worlds’ Top 20 for the first time in over a decade. Not by much mind, sitting at World Number 21. That is of course without any changes underneath with any seismic money gains from the players nearby. That spot would be enough to qualify him for the Masters, the first major of the year, which features the worlds top 24, and the Worlds, which grants spots to the Top 32. However, with other big tournaments, such as the Matchplay and Grand Prix, only the Top 16 in the OoM make it in automatically, with remaining spots given to the Pro Tour OoM, which could be Gary’s best hope of making those tournaments next year. The Grand Slam is its own kettle of fish, but if Gary reaches a major final, it will do his ranking some good anyhow as well as qualify him for his favourite tournament.

And, one more thing. I use this space to air my thoughts on any given performance – be it Gary, Cammy, Adam, Jamie or any other Dunvegan Dynamo. As a result, I want to say some thank yous. To Stephanie – thank you for giving me this opportunity. When you first messaged me in regards to this ahead of the Matchplay I was nervous and honoured – emotions that have never faded in the best way possible. Thank you for your continued faith, and I look forward to reporting for you for a long time to come. Plus, thank you for getting me into the PC Finals, which taught me restraint as not to chant too much during Gary’s game with Rachel nearby. Seriously though, it was an incredible experience. This is the difficult bit, where I try and say ‘I look forward to more experiences like this in the future should they come about’, but try and do it without sounding like I’m desperate and begging for it. SO, should an opportunity arise for me to report stageside and you like my reports – fancy a beer?

That brings me to my final thank you – To you, the reader. I love what I do, and the positive feedback I receive makes it feel that much more special. To write the match reports for my darting hero, and all the Dunvegan talent, and know it’s appreciated from all corners truly is one of the most special feelings. So thank you, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy my drivel through 2023.

A very happy new year to all, may 2023 bring success at and away from the oche for you all,

Ryan Segal