The last 16 of the UK Championship finishes up on Thursday when the final four matches in the round takes place at the Barbican Centre in York. The tournament is heading towards a crescendo and we are set for a fascinating day in the arena.
The big names continue to disappear with John Higgins the latest casualty in the event so the two star attractions on Thursday are sure to be fully focused as they bid to secure quarter final spots.
Shaun Murphy vs Ricky Walden
The main match in the afternoon session sees the former champion Shaun Murphy taking on a man who has underachieved in the UK through his career in Ricky Walden. That said Walden is back to form this week and should not be underestimated.
Murphy has come through the draw this week but he hasn’t looked his fluent best. Despite that he will be well aware that his half of the draw has opened right up and that should have him properly concentrated for this encounter. Ricky Walden has looked much better in this tournament so will fancy his chances.
I’m expecting Murphy to up his game from here on in but his odds are pretty cramped and I’m not convinced he’ll cover a handicap with much in hand either so this is one to sit out.
Martin Gould vs Xiao Guodong
The other match in the afternoon is a huge match for Martin Gould. He has already seen Ryan Day and Stephen Maguire win in the race for The Masters spots so he needs to do likewise to keep his hopes alive. Xiao Guodong is playing for his ranking and a decent Christmas bonus.
I don’t think either of these men have a significant advantage so betting on the match is very difficult. If I was going to have a punt it would be on the breaks but there isn’t a 50 break line and the centuries offer minimal value so I’ll leave this out too.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Akani Songsermsawad
All eyes will be on the overwhelming favourite to win the tournament in Ronnie O’Sullivan when he plays Akani Songsermsawad for a place in the quarter final against either Martin Gould or Xiao Guodong.
O’Sullivan is widely expected to win this and I think he will win it. The question is how many he will win it by. I’ve a sneaky feeling that Songsermsawad could be dangerous in this match. He can score and he can play with freedom. He has done well to get this far and is guaranteed a decent pay day.
Despite that I’m tempted on the handicap but the price on O’Sullivan isn’t high enough to justify what I think would be something of a risk so I will leave this one too.
Mark Joyce vs Lu Haotian
Two surprise packages meet for the right to face Ryan Day in the quarter final when Mark Joyce takes on Lu Haotian. Both men saw off big names in the previous round in Neil Robertson and Marco Fu so they should both be confident.
Joyce was very solid in beating Robertson and I got the feeling from that he isn’t done in this tournament yet. He is a very capable player and Robertson played well against him. Haotian outlasted Fu in many ways but to be fair to the Chinese star he scored well when the chances came along.
I expect this to be a tight and tense affair given the opportunity that is available for both players but when push comes to shove I fancy the experience that Joyce has could come to the fore. At odds against I think he’s value in this one.
WON – Back M.Joyce to beat L.Haotian for a 4/10 stake at 2.10 with Boylesports
Back him here: