Ricky Evans’ Betfred World Matchplay debut ended with a first-round defeat as he was beaten 10-7 by former semi-finalist Daryl Gurney.
Gurney landed nine 180s on his way to victory but missed doubles from the number three seed allowed the Kettering darts ace to keep in touch at 4-3, before Gurney found his range on the outer ring to stretch his advantage to 7-3.
Evans then began to settle onto the famous Winter Gardens stage in Blackpool, winning four of the next five to go within a leg of the Northern Irishman at 8-7.
With Evans waiting on 24 to level and take the game to a grandstand finale, Gurney showed composure to find double six with his last dart in hand, before sealing the win in the following leg with another third-dart checkout, this time on double two.
“If I had gone off the boil and he was getting six darts at double per leg then I would’ve been panicking, but as it was I always felt quite calm and confident of winning,” said Gurney.
“I’m happy with the win. You’ve got to be in it to win it, and I’m still in it. I’ve got another couple of gears to go through and I’ll need to unlock those if I’m going to win the tournament.”