Sadly, for Stephen Bunting, this particular trip to Blackpool didn’t end with the illuminations that annually light-up the popular seaside town.

Hopes of lifting a major PDC television title are still on hold after a first round defeat at the World Matchplay prematurely ended the Bullet’s hopes of silverware.

Opening up the tournaments proceedings, the former Lakeside Champion was paired against Krzysztof Ratajski. With the Pole off song slightly lately, Bunting saw it as an opportunity to progress. However, the Polish Eagle had other ideas and run out a 10-6 victor.

Ratajski reached the semi-finals of this event last year but has failed to push on from there since. Whereas Bunting has been consistently putting in strong displays on the floor events.

All that said, it wasn’t a bad display from the Liverpudlian, averaging just shy of 93. But on this occasion, the Warsaw man seemed to continue on the Winter Gardens stage from where he left off twelve months earlier.

Mercifully, it meant an extended holiday with the family although he rather would have been playing more matches than slot machines that week.

Speaking after the game, Bunting said: “Very frustrating. My darts were going in fantastically upstairs in the practice room but once I got on stage, they just didn’t go where I wanted.

“I know what Krzysztof is capable on his day. Unfortunately for me, he was on great form and was a deserving winner.

“I’ve now had a full week to refresh, energise and practice ahead of a gruelling five day slog in Barnsley so feel ready to go again.

“Hopefully, I will qualify for both European Tour tournaments and the World Series finals as well as pick up some good wins in the three Players Championship events.”

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