DARTS: Nine-dart finish woe adds insult to injury as 'gutted' Smith misses out on World Championship place

This Is Wiltshire: SO NEAR, YET SO FAR: Dennis Smith SO NEAR, YET SO FAR: Dennis Smith

A SMALL and relatively insignificant moment perfectly summed up Dennis Smith’s afternoon on Monday.

Playing in the second round of PDPA Qualifiers against Steve Grubb, the Swindon ace popped in two straight 180s, then another treble, before missing the treble 19.

Just two pinpoint throws more, and the experienced PDC campaigner would have secured darts’ perfect leg, but it wasn’t to be.

That turned out to be a microcosm of the wider day which saw Smith play superbly, only to be denied a place in the 2013 Ladbrokes World Championships at the last.

The 43-year-old made it all the way to the semi-final following wins over Grubb (5-2), Ian Jopling (5-2), Nick Fullwell (5-3) and Mark Lawrence (5-1), only to run into Cheshire’s John Bowles.

The winner was guaranteed a place at Ally Pally next month, but Smith was blown away 5-0 and his worlds dream was left in tatters.

“I was playing really well and just fell at the last hurdle,” he explained.

“I’m absolutely gutted, but I firmly believe there’s a reason for things happening and I’m sure it will make me stronger for next year.

“I started off really well and when I had one more match to play I thought I could do it.

“He probably thought the same thing and obviously I met the better man on the day. He brought his game to the match and I didn’t.

“I’ll lick my wounds, if it hurt too much getting beat I probably wouldn’t play at all.

“I’ve got a couple of exhibitions over Christmas to keep my arm in and then we’ll start again in the new year. I’ll be back to fight another day.”

Smith’s pain was compounded by the fact he had previously missed out on a place at the worlds by finishing £100 short of qualification through the PDC ProTour Order Of Merit.

That total could have been remedied by winning in the Players Championship on Saturday or Sunday, but losses to the World Grand Prix winner Michael Van Gerwen and Arron Monk ended his challenge.

“I went to Barnsley to try and qualify and it just didn’t happen,” added Smith.

“I had a really tough draw on the Saturday against Michael Van Gerwen and I did well against him, but it wasn’t enough.

“I played a good lad on the Sunday as well and missed a couple of doubles.”

Swindon’s sole representative at Ally Pally will be Johnny Haines, who qualified through the ProTour Order of Merit.

Smith plans to travel to London for the tournament with his close friend, where he will look on as a spectator.

“I’ll be watching John and I wish him all the best in the world, it couldn’t happen to a nicer lad,” said Smith.

“He’s a fantastic dart player and a good friend of mine. It will be a fantastic experience for him.”

Haines made the third round of the Players Championship in Barnsley on Sunday after beating Adrian Gray (6-0) and Colin Lloyd (6-3), before bowing out to Mervyn King (6-1).

Fellow Swindonian Chris Aubrey lost 6-3 to Ian Moss in the third round on Sunday and also made the third round on Saturday, being defeated 6-0 by Ian White.

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