The final day of qualifying for the UK Championship takes place on Thursday with eight matches deciding the last eight qualifiers into the main draw for the tournament which gets started in York at the weekend.
The prize on offer for everyone taking to the baize across the two sessions on Thursday is a spot in the main draw where they will meet a seeded player in the first round between Saturday and Tuesday.
Stephen Maguire is having a very good season and he is now the leading ranked player on show in the afternoon session. He meets a familiar foe in Joe O’Connor while the former Welsh Open champion Joe Perry will be looking to make it into the main draw. Mark Joyce is the man standing in his way. Ken Doherty is one win away from competing in the final stages of another UK Championship. He has to get the better of Yuan Sijun in order for that to become a reality while in the other match Lukas Kleckers will be looking to qualify for the main draw when he goes up against Ben Woollaston who looks to have turned his form around this week.
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We saw a number of Asian players make it through to the main draw on Wednesday and three more from that part of the world will be looking to join them on Thursday evening. Hossein Vafaei only missed out on the main draw by two ranking spots but he will be hoping to make it there when he takes on Scott Donaldson. We have one amateur left in the field and that is Craig Steadman. He will play a fourth qualifying match on Thursday evening when he meets Pang Junxu while Zhou Yuelong is the other Asian player on show. He faces Ian Burns. There is a bit of a local derby in the other game when David Lilley takes on Elliot Slessor.
Stephen Maguire and Joe O’Connor have met twice this season, in the Wuhan Open and at the International Championship and the Scot has won both times. He has won with a bit to spare too with a 5-2 win in their first meeting and a 6-4 win in the second and given how well Maguire has been playing this season I think he can complete a hat trick of comfortable wins over an opponent who is solid and competitive but might play a game that Maguire likes.
Their match in the Wuhan Open was nothing to write home about but they both played well in the International Championship and Maguire came out on top. Already this week the Scot has slammed in three centuries to beat Ashley Hugill and he looks much more like the player we know he can be. He ended Judd Trump’s insane winning run in China and should have beaten him at the Northern Ireland Open too. O’Connor has had a slow start to the season and while he looks to have picked up in recent weeks, I expect Maguire to be too good for him here.
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