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Higgins is put to the sword but Allen has to improve

By Pippa Field

Antrim's Mark Allen admitted his performance wasn't perfect as he edged a final frame decider to beat John Higgins 6-5 in the first round of the Dafabet Masters yesterday afternoon.

The Pistol was made to work extremely hard at Alexandra Palace as he fought back from 2-0 down to lead 5-4 after sinking a re-spotted black in the ninth frame.

Higgins, a two-time Masters champion, hit 77 in the 10th to force a decider which the Ulsterman took thanks mainly to a break of 44.

But despite reaching the quarter-finals, where he will face Judd Trump or Marco Fu on Thursday, Allen knows there's room for improvement.

"To be honest, I'm not playing that great. I played okay in spells against John (Higgins) but my safety was very good today. I was very impressed with my safety, it's not often I say that about myself," he said.

"I don't quite feel happy with my technique at the minute when I'm in the balls.

"I'm not timing the ball very well but I can battle hard and will never give up, that's one of my best attributes. It will stand me in good stead when I do get that bit of form.

"I need to find something that works, I'm still struggling a bit with it.

"I can get it in spells as you could see, 81 and 100 two frames in a row and I didn't look like missing, but it's always in the back of my mind that I don't quite feel comfortable yet."

The 30-year-old has only got past the quarter-final stages twice in six attempts but after an up and down season, he's confident he isn't far away from finding his top form.

He added: "I don't feel like I'm losing to bad players, I'm losing to the very best. It's taking the very best to beat me even though I'm not quite happy with the way I'm playing.

"That speaks volumes for where my game is at.

"I'm a perfectionist, I want to play as well as I can out there and when I'm not at that level I feel disappointed.

"I feel like I'm not too far away, it's just a little fine tuning of a few little things and I'll be winning events again."

After being 2-0 down, Allen was all-square at the mid-session interval after fine breaks of 51 and 37.

A break of 54 for Higgins put him back ahead before an 81 and 104 break meant Allen took the lead for the first time.

Allen missed a blue in the ninth frame while on 67 to allow Higgins in and force a re-spotted black but the defiant Ulsterman managed to sink a long pot to lead 5-4 before the Scotsman forced a final frame decider.

And while both players had opportunities, it was the man from Antrim who came out on top with a crucial 44 break - his third first round success over Higgins at the Masters.

• Watch the London Masters LIVE on Eurosport 2, featuring daily studio analysis from Ronnie O'Sullivan, Jimmy White and Neal Foulds

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