STUART Kellett posted his highest average score in a televised match this year, but still bowed out of the Ladbrokes World Darts Championship in the first round last night, Saturday.
The Northwich ace lost in straight sets against 20th seed Paul Nicholson, from Australia, who produced his best form at London’s Alexandra Palace to progress to the competition’s second stage.
“When I saw the draw I realised I had a tough game on my hands,” said the victor afterwards.
“I’ve got to know Stuart well over the past couple of years, and he’s a high quality player.
“So to win the way I did is a boost to my confidence.”
Kellett broke his opponent’s throw in the opening leg of the contest, taking out a 64 finish.
However Nicholson, victor in two of the rivals’ three previous meetings, won the next three to claim the opening set.
He cleaned up 97 and then 72 – after Kellett narrowly missed bull for a 128 checkout – in doing so.
Nicholson added the second set shortly afterwards, making the most of unconverted doubles by Kellett, to assume control.
The 32-year-old, based in Rudheath, missed a single dart at tops in the second leg before repeating the trick when requiring double 16 in the third.
He improved in the third set, taking his opponent to a deciding leg. But Nicholson crossed the line after hitting double eight when Kellett was unable to take out 127.
His average, 95.09, was better than when he came from behind to beat Kevin Painter at the William Hill Grand Slam of Darts last month.
He matched Nicholson’s maximums haul – four – and boasted the same number of 140-plus visits.
But the Aussie’s finishing – making nine of 19 double attempts to Kellett’s 27% conversion – made the difference.
Nicholson, a quarter finalist in 2009, will play either Painter or German qualifier Tomas Seyler at the next stage.