Gray qualifies for premier event in the world of darts

ADRIAN Gray has booked his place in the final stages of darts' premier event for the first time.

The St Leonards-based marksman will line up alongside some of the game's greats at the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship in 10 days' time.

An elated Gray, pictured, said: "I'm absolutely delighted. Everyone wants to be there and it's all I've been thinking about since my last competition at Great Yarmouth (three weeks ago)."

The 25-year-old will be part of a 64 man field from around the world at The Circus Tavern in Purfleet, Essex.

Among his adversaries will be multiple world champions Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld, plus world number one Colin Lloyd.

Gray will in fact feature in the opening match of the competition, which is televised live on Sky Sports, against world number 10 Ronnie Baxter on Monday December 18.

The local ace, ranked 44, set up his moment in the spotlight by successfully coming through the nerve-jangling PDPA Qualifiers last weekend.

Gray was the winner of an 11-man board six at Villa Park, the home of Premiership football club Aston Villa, on Saturday.

A healthy crowd had stayed behind to watch Gray defeat 93rd-ranked Matt Chapman 5-1 in the last of the 16 board finals to be completed.

Gray raced into a 3-0 lead and recovered his composure after losing the fourth to secure victory by reeling off successive legs.

He also saw off Peter Green by the same scoreline in the semi-finals and had a shot at a double to win without dropping a leg.

His first match was an altogether more tense affair, however, because he recovered from being 4-1 down to edge out Colin Ritchie 5-4.

Ritchie missed a dart to win the match 5-3 and Gray, who was the seeded player on board six, cashed in on his reprieve with a nerveless 13-dart final leg.

He commented: "I had a bit of a wake-up call when I was 4-1 down, but I definitely played my best darts of the year in the two 5-1 wins. I always think too much about my game, but this time I was so concentrated on getting the job done."

His success in the Midlands continues a decent run of form for Gray, who won the Camber Sands Tournament during October.

Another St Leonards player Shayne Burgess also competed in Birmingham, but the two time World Grand Prix finalist narrowly missed out on progressing.

After scraping past Lee White 5-4 in the quarter-finals of board two, the former world number two was beaten 5-1 in the semi-finals by eventual qualifier and world number 48 Alan Tabern.