European Darts Championship 2016 Day One: Afternoon session preview and order of play

Michael 'Bully Boy' Smith celebrates (credit:Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

The 2016 European Championship kicks off in Hasselt on Friday afternoon, with eight closely-matched First Round ties in the offing at the Ethias Arena.

The three-day, £400,000 major features the top 32 players from the European Order of Merit, and with only the top eight seeded, a number of eye-catching early draws have been made possible.



Among those is an all St Helens show-down between former Premier League stars Michael Smith and Stephen Bunting as they bid to make a timely return to form following below-par seasons respectively.

Smith has lost in the opening round of his last six PDC tournaments and is desperate for a fresh injection of confidence after finishing bottom of the Premier League table in his debut season.

Bunting, meanwhile, is clinging on to his place in the world's top 16 after a torrid run which has seen him fail to progress beyond the last 16 of a televised major in his last eight attempts since March 2015.

Two emerging talents tipped for bright futures in the sport face off as UK Open quarter-finalist Joe Cullen takes on recent ProTour event runner-up - Chris Dobey.

Like Dobey, Cullen is making his debut in this prestigious event following a series of strong runs on the European Tour this season, notably reaching the Semi-Finals of the German Masters back in March.

Bedlington ace Dobey has flourished under the guidance of Gary Anderson and will be hoping to transfer his blistering floor form on to the big stage in only his second televised tournament campaign.

Terry Jenkins, the 2014 runner-up who recently announced his semi-retirement from the sport, aims to produce his vintage best when he meets world number 14 Ian 'Diamond' White.

Both players have gone almost 12 months without a run to a televised Quarter-Final and will be determined to kick-start a strong run by prevailing in this close-run battle.

World number seven Robert Thornton aims to turn the corner following a dismal 12-month spell by overcoming dangerous Spaniard Cristo Reyes.

Thornton has reached just one singles Quarter-Final in 2016 so far and will be wary of the threat posed by Reyes, who is closing in on a place in the world's top 32 for the first time.

Daryl Gurney, who has two Players Championship Semi-Final appearances under his belt this month, bids to continue his fine run of form when he comes up against consistent Welshman Gerwyn Price.

Price reached back-to-back European Tour Quarter-Finals in September and recently leapfrogged Mark Webster to become the number one ranked Welsh player in the PDC system.

Mervyn King, European Championship semi-finalist in 2014, takes on lively debutant Devon Petersen in only the third meeting between the two polar opposite players.

King enjoyed a resurgent run to the last eight of July's World Matchplay but has endured an otherwise modest season, while South African ace Petersen hit a nine-darter in a floor event in May and will be quietly confident of defying the odds in this tie.

Benito van de Pas, who claimed the final Players Championship title of the season in Barnsley last weekend, aims to continue his winning run at the expense of World Youth Champion Max Hopp.

Jamie Caven, twice a European Championship quarter-finalist, kicks off the competition with a clash against James Richardson world number 78 and the lowest ranked player in the field.

The action gets underway from 12.45pm BST, with all matches to be contested over the best of 11 legs at the Ethias Arena in Hasselt, Belgium.

Unibet European Championship 2016 match schedule

All times BST (local time one hour ahead)

Friday October 28

First Round

Afternoon Session

1.00pm Jamie Caven v James Richardson
1.30pm Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price
2.00pm Chris Dobey v Joe Cullen
2.30pm Ian White v Terry Jenkins
3.00pm Cristo Reyes v Robert Thornton
3.30pm Mervyn King v Devon Petersen
4.00pm Michael Smith v Stephen Bunting
4.30pm Max Hopp v Benito van de Pas


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European Darts Championship 2016 Day One: Afternoon session preview and order of play

The 2016 European Championship kicks off in Hasselt on Friday afternoon, with eight closely-matched First Round ties in the offing at the Ethias Arena.

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