Professional darts can be a cruel mistress, and day two of the World Matchplay threw up two heart-breakers.
Andy "Pieman" Smith, who has never progressed beyond the first round at Blackpool, played a great match against James Wade, the world no. 2, and at times looked set for victory. But in a sign of the massive pressure on both men, they were missing doubles left right and centre with Wade missing 6 darts at his usually favourite double 10. Smith had the chance to go 9-7 in front, a scoreline which would have practically assured him of victory but missed 9 darts at the double. Wade recovered from his earlier nerves and showed real bottle to take the next 3 legs and clinch the match 10-8.
I felt so sorry for Andy Smith, one of the most likeable players on the pro circuit - big man, big personality, big heart. He threw some brilliant darts in a tense and nervy encounter, including a 151 check out and throughout the match looked the likely winner, but the missed doubles cost him a great victory and he sadly fell at the final hurdle.
The second heart-ache of the evening was for local hero Wes Newton, who like the Pieman has never been beyond the first round and was looking for a big performance in front of his home crowd. Sadly, it just wasn't to be; despite fighting his way back from 6-1 down against fellow Lancastrian Alan Tabern, Newton finally succumbed 12-10, going out in the first round at Blackpool for the 4th time.
As if that wasn't enough tragedy and drama for one evening, the second match of the evening saw Jackpot Adrian Lewis, the Phil Taylor protege with talent oozing from every pore who has never yet managed a big televised win, go out 11-9 to Mark Webster in a match which could have been an allegory for his career so far - flashes of brilliance, including a very awkward double 10 finish that Annie Oakley would have been proud of, were interspersed with moments of drifting concentration and wandering darts.
Webster, the Welshman born in the same year as yours truly (1983) and not, some would say, without a certain resemblance (people say that about me and James Wade sometimes too), was too strong and too consistent in the end, and deserves full credit for his win.
The evening's other piece of drama came in the first match, with Co Stompe battling against Andy Hamilton to win by a nose at 12-10. The Dutchman, with a throwing action so weird Stephen Hawking gave up trying to figure it out years ago, really had to fight against the Hammer, and the tense match set the scene for the dramas that were to follow.
All in all a superb night of theatre, with oodles of triumph and tragedy. Can't wait for this evening :o)