Maplin Electronics UK Championship 2008: Gritty Ebdon fights back for crucial victory

Four more first round matches came to an end this afternoon, click below to find out how Peter Ebdon, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson moved into round two…

Peter Ebdon 9-8 Andrew Higginson

2006 UK Champion Peter Ebdon kept his hopes of a second title – and possibly his hopes of retaining a top in the top 16 next season, alive today with a trademark come-back against Andrew Higginson.

Importantly for Peter he took the opener to keep in touch, but Higginson came right back at him with a 70 break to restore the two frame cushion. The next two frames panned out in a similar way, Peter getting in to make 127, the first century of the match, before Andrew against responded with a decent break, this time of 60 to keep his lead going into the interval.

After the break things continued in much the same way, Ebdon closing in before Higginson again took the lead. With Andrew just one away at 8-7 however, Peter hung in there and managed to force decider before going on to win the match 9-8 and book a tie with Ali Carter in the next round.

A fantastic result for Peter, this will hopefully give his confidence a lift, as well as his provisional ranking which will now rise from its current position outside of the top 16. Facing possible relegation from that elite group for the first time since the 1993/4 season, this result is a significant boost for him and though he will have to win a few more matches yet to retain his place, he has at least given himself a chance.

Stephen Maguire 9-3 Jamie Burnett

Stephen Maguire today came through to win a fairly uneventful match with fellow Scot Jamie Burnett 9-3, but the real action has come afterwards amid yet another series of suspicious betting patterns.

Resuming 6-2 up, Stephen Maguire carry on where he left off today with a couple of half-century breaks to move closer to the winning line, though Jamie showed that he himself wasn’t playing too badly as he made a century break to reduce his arrears. Remarkably at this stage he had a long pot success rate of 86%, a quite phenomenal stat for someone 7-3 down! It was his short game that was to cost him though, particularly in the final frame at 8-3 when he overcut the final black by a staggering margin for a professional player and left it in the pocket for Maguire to duly wrap up the win.

It is this miss and the fact that a great deal of money was placed on a 9-3 scoreline, and virtually none on either 9-2 or 9-4 that has aroused suspicion in the time since. Jamie has since said that he was aware of the story and that the pressure caused by this contributed to that missed black at the end, something that I could totally understand given what has gone before this season. Indeed if he were to miss the black on purpose, surely he would not miss by such a margin and make it appear to be totally obvious?

Either way, Stephen Maguire now has a tie with…

Neil Robertson 9-7 Michael Holt

Bahrain Championship winner Neil Robertson continued his revival today with an excellent win over Michael Holt, another player who is having a good year.

Resuming at 4-4 it looked like the match was nailed on to go the distance as it went 5-5, 6-6 and then 7-7, but just when he needed it most, Robertson found breaks of  73 and 89 to finally break free from Holt and book his place in the last 16. Hopefully now he can really start to find some consistency because snooker could do with a player like Neil firing on all cylinders…

John Higgins 9-7 Joe Swail

John Higgins eased into the second round today following an at times bizarre match with Joe Swail, eventually finishing it off 9-7.

Taking the opening frame to make it 5-4, Higgins should really have made Joe Swail for a number of wasted chances to make it 5-5, but a simply unbelievable miss on the frame ball pink let Joe off the hook somewhat. Higgins had another chance on the final black but again missed a sitter and 5-5 it was.

This frame really seemed to shock both players, neither managing to play well as they shared the next two frames to go into the interval at 6-6. When play resumed though, the standard shot up immeasurably, but despite an 80 break from Swail to keep his hopes alive, it was Higgins who really turned on the style. Breaks of 58, 73 and 89 were enough to take the three frames he needed and secure a hard-fought, important win. Next up for John will be a repeat of his Grand Prix quarter-final with Ding Junhui.

Peter Ebdon 9-8 Andrew Higginson  9-69, 53-64, 77(38)-5, 67-7, 52-65, 34-93(52), 85(85)-48, 9-73(68), 72-40, 11-108(70), 128(127)-0, 25-102(60), 121(60)-0, 12-76(76), 130(75)-0, 71-62
Stephen Maguire  9-3 Jamie Burnett 70-7, 85(85)-1, 2-68, 136(71,65)-0, 4-73(73), 65-43, 58-37, 67(66)-26, 99(51,48)-0, 0-113(113), 79(36)-15, 48-41
Neil Robertson 9-7 Michael Holt 21-69(43), 69-40, 0-70(52), 84(76)-51, 0-118(65), 118(118)-6, 53(46)-71(45), 63-18, 18-59, 79(79)-0, 13-74, 56-25, 67-37
John Higgins 9-7 Joe Swail 108(56,52)-2, 5-77(56), 122(100)-0, 0-79(43), 120(54,53)-6, 42(39)-52, 13-72(45), 66(59)-54, 66-37, 62-72(52), 77-26, 0-102(102), 67(58)-60, 14-80(80), 79(73)-24, 93(89)-1