It’s Andy v Adi in the Great PDC Battle of East Sussex! Andy Relf’s Diary of a Darts Player

WELL, let’s see what excuse I can use for losing this week… Losers Excuse number 379, the cough that keeps you awake all night!

Only joking, it would be nice, however, if one day I could turn up to a tournament without an ailment or an injury. It’s starting to get a bit tedious now!

Barnsley last weekend was my first proper PDC tournament of the year, and also my first since dislocating the bone in my foot (which incidentally is still where I left it, and not where it should be!). The foot felt pretty good in the lead up to the tournament; it still hurts, but does not really affect my game that much.

So to wake up on Thursday with a sore throat was just another episode in the life of Mr Bump as I should now be more appropriately named. The throat cleared briefly then turned into one of those coughs that just keep going… no sleep for me then!

I travelled up to Barnsley on Friday evening with my wife Kris, and we got to our hotel, had a half hour chill out in the bar and went to bed.

Up early the next day, and off down to the venue for a bit of practice and to get back into the swing of PDC competition. We found ourselves a table, and were soon joined by Gary Anderson and Justin Pipe, and then Adi Gray and Tony Ayres rocked up, and it was soon back to the same old, good natured banter.

This weekend was also the first time that I’d gone to a venue without Tony and Adrian… they had other people travelling with them who wanted to come and watch so we all drove separately.

Anyway we went off and had a good practice, then waited for the draw to go up. Simultaneously I received a text saying that I’d drawn Adrian in the first round, and as I was reading the message, Kevin Painter said in passing that we could have stayed at home and played that match! In about 80 competitions, we had never even come close to drawing one another, now, first time we don’t travel together, here we are… spooky!

I felt really confident about the match, as I think we both know each other’s game inside out… we didn’t speak about it before we played, we just went up and got on with it.

For whatever reason, the standard in the first leg was pretty average. Adrian surged ahead, and I couldn’t find a treble, but, Adrian couldn’t finish so I stole the leg. The next three legs, and I still couldn’t hit a treble, and Adrian takes a 3-1 lead. Suddenly I kick into gear, and start winning legs. But the damage had already been done, I lost 6-3, and it was probably the worst match we’ve ever played against one another.

Steve Brown went on to win the event, and in the new Youth Tour event Michael Smith hit a nine darter against Van Gerwen. Smith lost the final to Shaun Griffiths.

Next day, back down to the venue again, all the usual suspects at our table, me and Justin head off to a practice board, where we are joined by a Simon Whitlock, and we start playing a few practice games. The morning passes quickly, and we wait for the draw. Today I receive a prelim against Gary Welding, not an easy one by any means… he’s reached the quarter finals of the PDC World Championships before, and the last time I played him, he battered me 6-0!

First match on and I’m in a very calm mood, and feeling really good about my game, I win the bull by hitting a bull to his 25, and we get underway. My scoring is superb, and I check out 110 to take the first leg. I soon find myself 4-1 up, then Gary steps up a bit. It is a great match, but soon we are level at 5-5. I start with a 140 and 137, and take a good lead. I leave 64, take a shot at it, single 16, go for an 8, and sneak into treble 11, 15 left so go for single 7, and hit a double… I bust it. He has hit 140 to leave 22. He misses, and this time I check out. A great win for me against a great player.

Next round and it is Mark Dudbridge who I have to face. This game starts in a similar way, I am hitting everything, and I am soon 2-0 up. I then started thinking about how well I’m playing, and Mark starts hitting form. My shots at doubles begin clipping wires, and I lose the match. I’d missed shots at 140, 130 and 112 outshots, a fraction of adjustment, and it could have been a fantastic result for me. But that is the standard I have to achieve to progress further. Wigan in two weeks is where it starts again.

So finally there was the last Superleague match of the winter season, and also my last match for the Railway Club in Eastbourne, before I move teams to current East Division champions – Lewes. Only fitting then that this match would be against Lewes.

I’ve always played well at Lewes, it is a fantastic darts setup at the Tally Ho. This week I had plenty of chance to practice, I’m drawn out eighth against Dave Harding. The match isn’t going our way, and by the time I go on, we have lost the match. I played pretty well, and so did Dave, and a very even match saw us level at 2-2, final leg. I’m away with a 140, and soon I leave 48, Dave has other plans though and checks out 117 to steal the win. I have the second highest average of the night, and lost!

I think my game will improve further upon joining Lewes, as the team oozes confidence, and that can only be good for me.