The qualifying competition for the Northern Ireland Open continues on Wednesday when another 24 players head to Ponds Forge in Sheffield looking for the four frames that they need to be at the main event in Belfast next week.
The top 16 players in the tournament have had their qualifying match held over to the main venue so the bigger names are in short supply this week. There are a few household faces on show over the course of Wednesday though.
The morning session on Wednesday is a rare one in which there is no Chinese player on show. The two highest ranked players in the session meet each other in the pick of the matches as Scott Donaldson takes on Mark Davis. The other two games provide four players with a good chance to make some money and qualify for a main draw when Mohamed Ibrahim takes on the Scottish player Dean Young and another Scot in Ross Muir goes up against the Brazilian player Victor Sarkis.
Early Afternoon Session
There is a bit of a Welsh invasion into Ponds Forge in the first of the two afternoon sessions on Wednesday. Two of those cueists meet each other as Jamie Clarke headlines the action when he takes on the amateur Alfie Davies while Duane Jones is the other Welsh player on show. He will meet James Cahill who will be looking to win here and have a good week in Belfast. The other match will see Liam Highfield looking to build on a good couple of weeks when he takes on Ken Doherty.
Later Afternoon Session
The former Welsh Open winner Jordan Brown will be hugely motivated in the second part of the afternoon session on Wednesday as he bids to claim a place in his home event. Stuart Carrington is the man who will be looking to play the role of party pooper. Robbie Williams reminded us of what he can do at the British Open and will look to show that again when he takes on Liam Pullen on Wednesday. The other match pits the Shootout winner Julien Leclercq up against the man who is local to these qualifiers in the form of Adam Duffy.
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The remaining three matches on Wednesday come in the evening session where all eyes will most likely be on one table as Matthew Stevens takes on the great Stephen Hendry, who needs some sort of positive performance to justify continuing on the circuit. The pick of the matches though might well be on another table where the Shootout champion Chris Wakelin goes up against the veteran Anthony Hamilton. The other game provides a good chance to two lower ranked players to make it through to the venue when M Phetmalaikul goes up against the amateur Barry Pinches.
As with Tuesday, there isn’t a huge amount that I like the look of over the course of the day on Wednesday but Liam Highfield showed some good form in Wuhan last week and I fancy him to build on that against a Ken Doherty who he has beaten in all three of their previous meetings. The latest of those was in 2017 but it is hard to argue that Doherty has got any better in that time and quite easy to argue that he has dropped off somewhat.
This has been a strange season for Highfield. Injury stopped him beginning it at the same time as everyone else but he took full advantage last week when Neil Robertson and Zhou Yuelong were among his victims before he went down to eventual finalist Ali Carter. He has had a week since then so he should have been able to get back from China and acclimatise to home surroundings and if he is fresh as he should be I would expect him to cruise past a Doherty whose only wins this season were against David Lilley and Alfie Burden. I’ll take a comfortable Highfield win in this one.
Back L.Highfield (-1.5 frames) to beat K.Doherty for a 3/10 stake at 1.95 with William Hill
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