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Allen hopes to start feeling right at home after weight of early pressure

 

By Ross Lawson

Mark Allen admitted he was looking forward to getting his tooth pulled out more than playing with the pressures of a home Dafabet Northern Ireland Open crowd.

But with a first, albeit scrappy, win now under his belt, the Antrim cueman now has a chance to feel right at home.

Last year Allen came close to hating the expectations on his shoulders, failing to live up to the hype with a premature exit.

Some would have feared a repeat this time around but, with a 4-2 win against Sanderson Lam coming his way, there's a feeling of relief about what the next few days could have in store in the Waterfront Hall.

"In the build-up I felt more pressure this year than I did last, but when I went out there I didn't feel anywhere near as bad, I just didn't play that great," he said.

"That can happen in a first round match, I'll take the positives out of getting through and I've been playing well over the past couple of months so I'm not that worried.

"Before my next game I'm actually having my tooth pulled out, so I was looking forward to that more than the snooker tournament a few days ago.

"I'll get that done on Tuesday, but hopefully I'll have some time to practice in preparation for Wednesday."

While his pre-match regime may be unorthodox, Allen knows he will have to up his game if he is to get beyond his second round opponent, Tian Pengfei.

The home favourite has never lost to his Chinese counterpart in three previous meetings, with the last two of those thumping 6-1 wins.

But with a high break of 35 against Lam, the signs currently suggest anything but a repeat performance tomorrow, though Allen was far from upset at having a scrappy encounter on his hands.

"If I had felt like last year I'd have felt like I wanted to pull out of the tournament. I would never do that, but it wasn't like that so hopefully it will get easier as the week goes on," he added.

"I can look forward to Wednesday now, you're not going to play well every time so you have to be in a position where you can scrap.

"I've got a lot of family and friends out there, but any first round match is going to be edgy, even in qualification - but now I've settled into the tournament there are no excuses."

Meanwhile, it was not to be for Allen's fellow Belfast man Joe Swail, playing on the adjacent table to the World No.6 and missing out in his own tense contest.

That was to go all the way to a decider with Lyu Haotian, though neither player was at their best in the 4-3 contest.

Elsewhere, former World champion Neil Robertson made it through to the next round with a 4-1 win over Wales' Jamie Jones in the afternoon session.

Jimmy White is also into the next round after he overcame veteran Dominic Dale 4-3 in a thrilling match, while Ken Doherty also progressed with a 4-2 win over Peter Lines.

However, there were two big shocks as another former World champion, Shaun Murphy, fell 4-1 to China's Chen Zifan, while Kyren Wilson suffered a surprise defeat by the same scoreline to fellow Englishman Sam Craigie.

• Watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport Player and Quest with Colin Murray and daily studio analysis with Neal Foulds.

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