Justin Pipe v Joe Cullen
Joe Cullen will make his debut at the Winter Gardens this Tuesday evening against Justin Pipe, who will be making only his second appearance here. Pipe is one of the game’s most feared opponents on the floor circuit, but has yet to transfer that dominance onto the main stage. Until he does, we simply cannot be backing him at odds as short as 1.36.
Cullen doesn’t have much experience of the big events and the unique setting of the Winter Gardens can be difficult to adjust to. But Pipe has done very little in front of the cameras to warrant him being as short as he is in the odds and almost by default we have to back Cullen at an outstanding 3.00.
Wes Newton v James Hubbard
James Hubbard is another up-and-coming youngster making his debut on the Winter Gardens stage, but he is up against one of the game’s top players - world number five Wes Newton - and long odds of 3.15 are justifiable.
Newton is now firmly established in the world’s top eight and, although a major title continues to elude him, he is a regular fixture in the latter stages of televised tournaments. I expect him to be in Blackpool at the end of the week. That isn’t to say that Hubbard isn’t capable of causing an upset, but I’d want bigger odds than 3.15 in order to be convinced to part with my money.
The pair have never met previously so there is no head-to-head record to go off, and although I like Newton’s chances this week there is no value in backing him at 1.33 to win this one. If you want an ‘interest bet’ in this match then the 30.00 on Newton winning the tournament is a better option.
Gary Anderson v Dean Winstanley
When he steps up to the oche this Tuesday evening it will be well over a month since Gary Anderson last threw a competitive dart in anger. The Scotsman has been out of action for the past five weeks with a troublesome eye problem that could yet see him forced to undergo surgery.
Although he is trying to make all the right noises ahead of the Matchplay, I’m not convinced all is well in the Anderson camp. Talk of “getting back into” practice, the need to constantly use eye drops and potential surgery on a tear duct is worrying for the player and his supporters. Up against an opponent of Dean Winstanley’s calibre he could struggle.
Since switching from the BDO to the PDC, Winstanley has rapidly worked his way up the rankings and will make his first major appearance in front of the cameras here. It’s a massive task but if he hits the ground running he could cause an upset and dump the world number four out of the Matchplay. Winstanley is a worthwhile bet at odds of 2.65.
Dave Chisnall v Ronnie Baxter
Another match with an overwhelming favourite, which, for me, is a lot closer than it may appear. Yes, Dave Chisnall is one of the most exciting players on the circuit and can beat anyone on his day, as he showed by defeating Phil Taylor at the World Championships. But we shouldn’t underestimate the fact that he can still be terribly inconsistent and that he is up against an experienced opponent who is in good form.
Ronnie Baxter followed up his run to the last 16 of the UK Open last month with a tournament victory in the Players Championship event in Crawley and a run to the final in Birmingham a week later. The Rocket is also a four-time semi-finalist in Blackpool and was a runner-up here in 1998, while Chisnall suffered a heavy defeat in his only appearance 12 months ago.
A lot of pointers are stacked in Baxter’s favour and although Chisnall is a worthy favourite it’s difficult to ignore the 3.15 available on the elder statesman.
Winstanley to beat Anderson @ 2.65
Baxter to beat Chisnall @ 3.15