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Experience the key for Mark Allen as he books place in English Open third round

Mark Allen
Mark Allen

By Thomas Williams

Mark Allen’s bid for a maiden 19.com English Open title is firmly alive after breezing into the third round in Crawley.

The Northern Irishman made light of Hong Kong’s Andy Lee to win 4-0 in next to no time in the last 64, despite not playing his best snooker on the night.

Both players were scrappy at times with frame-winning breaks hard to come by but Allen’s experience shone through when it mattered most.

The 33-year-old will now face Louis Heathcote for a place in the last 16 – a round neither player has reached in the event before.

Both Allen and Lee traded shots in the opening frame, with neither really able to get a foothold in the game from the outset.

But a poor safety from his opponent allowed Allen the first chance – one he needed no invitation to squander as he put the opening frame on the board.

The second was a similar affair with the run of the balls denying the Northern Irish cueman clear table time, though Lee – who has never been ranked higher than No.83 in the world – never looked like taking anything that wasn’t directly presented to him.

From a 2-0 lead, there only looked like being one winner as Allen – who beat James Wattana in the first round – picked up both pace and performance in his play.

Lee made the early running in the third frame but the 2018 Masters champion needed just one opportunity, a break of 79 taking him to within one of the finishing line.

After two successive second-round exits in the competition, Allen was perhaps feeling the nerves to get over the finishing line in West Sussex.

And his bid to get the job done quickly paid off, recording his third half-century break in four frames to match his best English Open appearance of reaching the third round.

Tour rookie Heathcote is the next challenge for Allen, with this undoubtedly the toughest test of the 22-year-old’s nascent career to date.

Victory over Jordan Brown in the first round gave Heathcote a maiden win having lost out in all his other previous tournaments.

But he didn’t stop there, overcoming Poland’s Adam Stefanow to give himself a shot at world No.7 Allen.

Overcome that hurdle and Allen will have a second game on his Thursday schedule, where Barry Hawkins – current world No.10 – could stand in his way of a quarter-final spot.

Watch the English Open live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with studio analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White

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