MICHAEL Smith admits he will need to improve on his first-round showing if he is to beat one of the sport’s rising stars this afternoon, writes Andrew Simpson.

The St Helens star meets Rob Cross in the World Darts Championship second round at Alexandra Palace, where he resisted a recovery by newcomer Steve Lennon to progress on Wednesday.

“I was shaking beforehand,” he said.

“I felt more nervous before that match than when I played Phil Taylor while he was still defending champion a couple of years ago.

“I thought ‘all of the big names, the top seeds, are going out here – don’t let it be you too!’.”

His reward for a 3-2 victory in the first round is a date with a player that sits third on the Professional Darts Corporation ProTour Order of Merit for 2017.

A former electrician that played at last year’s UK Open as an amateur, Cross has climbed into the world’s top 20 following a stunning debut campaign that included a run to the European Championship final in October.

He defeated Smith in the quarter-finals of that tournament, and has won four of their five previous meetings.

Smith said: “I don’t care who I play.

“He’s got three darts, and so have I.

“I know I’ve got to perform and that’s what it’s all about. If I don’t, then I’ll get smashed – it’s as simple as that.

“I’m not firing on all cylinders yet; there is probably 20 per cent or so missing, but it’s coming back to me slowly.

“I’m winning again, and that’s the main thing even if I’m not yet where I want to be.”

Smith is scheduled to play in this afternoon’s session at the London venue, and his clash with Cross follows the day’s opening encounter between Keegan Brown and Zoran Lerchbacher.