Wayne Mardle on the World Championship: Back Michael Smith to see off Mervyn King

Wayne is backing Michael Smith (above) to triumph on Friday
Wayne is backing Michael Smith (above) to triumph on Friday

Wayne Mardle previews three of today's matches at Ally Pally and explains why he expects the talented Michael Smith to sustain his impressive form and defeat Mervyn King.

"I think Michael wins this with a bit in hand. I'll be surprised if, Mervyn wins more than two sets."

Recommended Bet: Smith -1.5 @ Evens

Michael Smith v Mervyn King
Friday 14:45, Live on Sky Sports 3

Michael smith hasn't had the best of times on the dartboard over the last ten months or so. This time last year we were talking about him as a possible finalist but an inspired performance from Barney knocked him out.

The youngster from St Helens is so talented. The way he can reel of legs in ultra quick time is box office. Against Ricky Evans in the first round, Smith was at his best at points. They say, horses for courses and the World Championship course seems to be a track that Michael likes.

He hasn't had an average below 95 since 2013, ten games ago. The sets format seems to suit him and he seems to be able to relax up on that beast of a stage. Today's opponent, Mervyn King, on the other hand, hasn't averaged north of 95 in any World Championship match since 2011.

In the big events this year, however, Michael has had a disaster. At every major event apart from last year's World Championship and the Masters, he failed to make it past the second round. But something clicked for Michael in his first round match against Ricky Evans and we saw the confidence and swagger returned to his game.

King is good. He's often lucky but there's no denying his quality. He will feel fortunate about his win over close chum Steve West. West missed two match darts but full credit to Merv for fighting back from 0-2 to win 3-2.

Throughout that match, King struggled. He looked flustered and under pressure. If West could have held his nerve he would have won. As he said afterwards: "I blew it ". Full credit to King though for having the belief and resilience to stay in there and fight away.

I'm aware that Smith could regress to the poor standards we've seen from him this year. But his overall standard of play over the last three years has been far superior to Mervyn's. Swallow doesn't make a summer but Smith looked so good and confident against Evans that I can't just forget it. And Mervyn really struggled against West.

I think Michael wins this with a bit in hand. I'll be surprised if, Mervyn wins more than two sets.

Recommended Bet: Smith -1.5 @ Evens

Ian White v Johnny Clayton
Friday 13:15, Live on Sky Sports 1 & 3

The odds are way out! I know there's three possible outcomes with this bet but the odds on Johnny Clayton to hit the most maximums is way off. Here's why.

In the last 129 legs, Ian White has hit 21 180s. That's an average of one maximum every six legs.

Johnny Clayton, meanwhile, has hit 26 180s in his last 113 legs. That's one maximum on average in every 4.3 legs.

The odds of over 3-1 about Clayton are wrong! Wrong I tell you!!

The spoiler in this bet is the draw, so I suggest a little wager on that too. Just in case.

Recommended Bet: Clayton to hit the most maximums @ 16/5
Also back the draw at 7-1

Darren Webster v Simon Whitlock
Friday 19:00, on Sky Sports 1 & 3

There's no way this will be a rout. Both Simon and Darren have been producing some good stuff of late.

Webster doesn't strike me as someone who gets intimidated. I mention this because an opponent can get bothered by someone who isn't bothered about them, if you see what I mean. Webster just doesn't care who he's playing, he simply turns up and plays his game.

That said, Simon will feel confident of a victory. I know he lost to Darren last year but he's back to somewhere near his best now. I'm convinced this will go into the sixth set, maybe seventh. If so, over 23.5 legs looks a sure thing.

I do think Simon is the better player but Webster's composure, his refusal to be intimidated by any occasion of opponent will mean he'll think he can win again, just like last year.

With both players thinking like winners, this has to go deep. Their darting confidence means I expect a close contest.

Recommended Bet: Over 23.5 legs

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