Mark Allen suffers semi-final whitewash in UK Championship
Two-time beaten finalist Mark Allen has backed close friend Stephen Maguire to go on and win the Betway UK Championship, after the Northern Irishman's campaign came to a brutal end at the semi-final stage.
The 33-year-old had edged into the last four with a close-fought win over veteran world No.98 Nigel Bond, but was outclassed by Maguire as he fell to a 6-0 whitewash at the York Barbican.
The Scotsman raced into an early 2-0 lead with breaks of 95 and 129, and while Allen looked on course to half his deficit after notching a half-century in the third, Maguire came back to the table and cleared up with 72 before going on to comfortably secure victory.
But despite seeing his bid to better last year’s runners-up finish fall short, 2018 Masters winner Allen insisted he was beaten by the better man on the night, and he believes Maguire is favourite to beat two-time champion Ding Junhui in Sunday’s showpiece.
“It’s hard to be disappointed, really,” he said. “I don’t feel like I was in that match at all because Stephen was superb from start to finish.
“I made a few mistakes, but he just stuck to his guns, went for his shots and he just looked like he really wanted it.
“It’s disappointing to be knocked out of such a big tournament when you get this far, but at the end of the match I had to tell him he’d played brilliantly.
“If he continues to play like he did tonight then Ding will certainly have his work cut out. It’s hard to replicate that form two days in a row but I don’t think a second UK title is too far away from him.”
Despite missing out on what would have ultimately been his second Triple Crown title, Allen was quick to take the positives from his run to his third ranking semi-final of the season, and to the UK Championship last four for the second year running.
And while he admitted he never fully found his rhythm throughout the tournament in York, he is hopeful of continuing to battle at the latter stages of the sport’s biggest tournaments going forward.
He said: “I’m pleased to have got to have got this far once again without ever really finding top gear.
“It took someone playing to the level Stephen did tonight to knock me out and there are still good signs there for the rest of the campaign.
“These big events aren’t easy to win and it’s up to me to keep giving myself these opportunities. Hopefully I’ll be able to open the door soon enough.”
Watch the UK Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player with analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White.
Belfast Telegraph Digital