The last 16 of the UK Championship begins at the Barbican Centre in York on Wednesday. The prize money starts to go up dramatically from here on in and we are down to two tables for the next two rounds too so there is a real feel that the competition is really starting to hot up.
We’ve seen a number of big names go out in the first three rounds but some massive ones remain and one of them is on show on what should be a good day on Wednesday with four matches across the two sessions.
Mark King vs John Higgins
The main match in the afternoon session sees two veterans in action when the former Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King takes on a man with 29 ranking event titles to his name and copious others in the form of John Higgins.
King pulled off a mini-shock in the previous round when he took care of Luca Brecel but this looks to be a whole different test entirely against a Higgins who finally showed his best snooker for the first time this week in coming past Yan Bingtao in the last 32. We know Higgins usually gets better the long an event goes on too.
I expect Higgins to win this one but there isn’t an awful lot of value either in the match betting or indeed the handicap odds so I’ll sit this one out.
Graeme Dott vs Stephen Maguire
On the other table in the afternoon there will be an all-Scottish battle when Graeme Dott takes on Stephen Maguire in a big match for both men. Maguire is clinging on to hopes of a place in The Masters while Dott is showing a nice return to form.
Dott turned into a scoring machine to power past Judd Trump in the previous round while Maguire had a good win over Liang Wenbo. His victory came in a deciding frame so Maguire certainly showed that he is up for the fight and he has a good record here.
I fancy this one could be quite a lengthy battle. Two of their last three matches have gone to a deciding frame and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this decided in a final frame either. Both are playing well so this looks like being close throughout to me. Over 9.5 frames looks the way forward here.
Joe Perry vs Mark Allen
The Masters finalist Joe Perry takes on the former finalist in this tournament in Mark Allen in the main match in the evening session. Both men will have seen their draw open up a bit and will sense an opportunity.
Perry has certainly shown an improvement in his form while Allen has been very good all season without the silverware to show for his efforts. I think the Northern Irishman will come through here but there is no doubt that this is a banana skin so I’ll sit on my outright bet on him rather than chance another bet.
Li Hang vs Ryan Day
The other match in the evening session sees two men who will be looking to take advantage of all the high profile losses in their section doing battle when Li Hang takes on Ryan Day for a place in the quarter finals where either Lu Haotian or Mark Joyce will await them.
Hang showed his best performance in the tournament in the previous round when he took care of the man who dumped out Mark Selby in Scott Donaldson but there was no denying how good Day looked in beating Mark Williams in the last 32.
That wasn’t the first impressive performance that Day has put in during this tournament so he is playing well. He needs to keep winning to fend off those who are gunning for his spot in The Masters and I think he’ll have too much scoring power for the Chinese player.
Back G.Dott vs S.Maguire – Over 9.5 frames for a 4/10 stake at 2.10 with Paddy Power
Back it here:
Back R.Day (-1.5 frames) to beat L.Hang for a 4/10 stake at 1.95 with Boylesports
Back him here: