The Masters continues at a wonderfully impressive looking Alexandra Palace in London on Monday night and it does so with a first round clash between a former winner and a debutant as Mark Allen takes on Dave Gilbert.
Allen won this title two years ago but will be all too aware that he lost in the first round of his title defence, so he will have a point to prove here. Gilbert’s reward for a good 2019 is his first appearance in this elite invitational event.
One of the more consistent players this season has been Mark Allen. You couldn’t say it is the best season of his career to date, but he isn’t lacking for consistency, he just needs a title for his efforts now. The man from Northern Ireland has made no fewer than six semi-finals this season, but is yet to make a final due to regularly running into top level performances by standout opponents. He hasn’t qualified for the two tournaments later in the month though so this becomes a big week for the ‘Pistol’.
These kind of tournaments bring the best out of Allen. He loves the raucous atmosphere of a big crowd in the big arenas so this is right up his street, as we saw a couple of years ago when he went all the way to the title. He is comfortable in this environment and he gets inspired from it so we would be foolish to think he won’t be performing at his best here, unless those defeats towards the end of 2019 have hurt his confidence.
This will be a huge night in the career of Dave Gilbert. He has regular told of how he has dreamt to play at the big venues against the biggest and best players and he makes his debut in the most prestigious invitation event of them all here. How he will cope with that though is guess work in many ways. Often in order to make the top 16 you have won a tournament in the past, but that isn’t how Gilbert has done it. He’s lost in finals and played the one-table set up at the Crucible but this is a different thing altogether.
Gilbert is a fantastic scorer and unlike his opponent in this match, he has made a final this year. It wasn’t a particularly memorable experience as he ran into a vintage Mark Selby in the English Open, but it was a final nonetheless, which is a decent effort after making it to the semi-final of the World Championship at the end of last season. Those one table experiences will help him, but it would be a big surprise if nerves aren’t in play here.
Head to Head
These two have only met on six occasions, which is probably a few times given that Gilbert hasn’t been at the top echelons of the game for very long. It is Allen who has had the best of their six meetings with four wins to the two of Gilbert, although it was the Englishman who won their last encounter at the World Open last year. In terms of frames it is 22-16 in the favour of Allen which suggests that he is probably a pretty worthy favourite heading into this first round encounter.
The first day of this tournament wasn’t a good one for the favourites but I’ve got to think that Mark Allen is a worthy holder of that tag. He is the better player of the two and with a bit in hand I think it is fair to say, and he certainly has experience both in this venue and in these sorts of tournaments on his side, and it might be that those are the determining factors in the overall outcome here I have to say.
Allen’s last three wins over Gilbert have been 4-1, 4-1 and 5-1 so when he gets on a roll against him, the Northern Irishman often runs away from him it would seem. It would be a huge surprise if Gilbert doesn’t start slowly here. The magnitude of the occasion is massive and with no disrespect intended, because I like Gilbert, we’ve seen stronger players than him wilt in this environment. Allen just has too much going for him to ignore here for me.
Back M.Allen (-1.5 frames) to beat D.Gilbert for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with Coral