World Championship 2009 Qualifiers: Tense night in Sheffield as pressure mounts

The last 48 got underway today at the EISS and for the third time this week I was there to witness the action…

Morning Session

As was the case on Sunday I saw very little of the action, indeed when I arrived at the venue and saw the scores I was astounded to see that Ricky Walden and Judd Trump were 8-0 and 7-1 up respectively! Talking to people who had watched the matches it seems that both had played outstanding snooker, Walden in particular producing some of his very best form.

By contrast however the match between Andy Hicks and Rory McLeod was going along very slowly, just having reached their interval as Ricky and Judd had rattled through nine frames. With there being only four matches on in the afternoon therefore, rather than pull them off and leave them more to do later, they were allowed to continue and the match between Lee Spick and Adrian Gunnell was switched to table six.

I also heard that Gerard Greene came close to a 147 break, missing the 14th red in the seventh frame of his clash with Liu Song. Nevertheless he pressed on and secured a comfortable lead going into the evening.

Away from the table I managed to get photos of Ricky Walden, Rod Lawler, Mike Dunn, Liu Song, Gerard Greene, Tom Ford, Stuart Pettman,  Marcus Campbell, David Gilbert, Rory McLeod, Jin Long, Adrian Gunnell and Martin Gould. It was good to listen to Martin in particular as he spoke about his match last night against Rodney Goggins where he just about managed to get over the line having played quite poorly in the second session.

Afternoon Session

Going for Gould

It was to be a different situation today however as in his match against Gilbert, Martin looked comfortable from the off, a solid 65 (albeit with the aid of a fluked yellow on 56 going across the top cushion and into the opposite pocket), moving him 1-0 ahead. It looked for a while like he might make it 2-0, making several awkward shots before finally missing on 38 when an attempt to split the reds from the blue left the white tight on the bottom cushion. From here Gilbert managed to snooker him behind the green and Gould struggled to escape, needing six attempts to hit a red before leaving it on anyway for David to make it 1-1.

Gilbert too was looking strong, knocking in a terrific long red to open frame three, before going into the reds from the blue and unfortunately for him, managing to pot one. Though Gould could only respond with 19 initially, a dreadful shot from Gilbert immediately gave him another chance and he soon made it 2-1. Gilbert though managed to reply with a very well-taken 91 which but for a missed black could have been a century, but 2-2 it was anyway.

The first frame back after the interval could have gone either way, Gilbert starting off with a superb plant before running out of position on 37 and giving Gould a chance to steal it. Martin did well as he made 58, but having nudged the yellow off the side-cushion from the pink, he then missed it to the green pocket and gave Gilbert a chance to redeem himself. Unfortunately for him though he missed the green and as Martin cleared for 3-2, it looked like this could be the first really significant frame of the match. Back came David in the next however, rattling off a 97 in no time to level once again at 3-3.

But parity was the be short-lived as Martin went on a three frame-winning streak to end the session 6-3. The last frame in particular was crucial, just two points separating the players with 35 remaining. Eventually though it was Gould who got the last red and cleared for a three frame overnight lead which is so much better than 5-4. Still, both played well today and I would not rule out a Gilbert comeback there…

Sick as a Parrott

While the above match was high quality from the start, sadly the match between former champion John Parrott and qualifier Matt Couch was anything but as initially both failed to fire. Couch was potting a few great long balls without being able to really build on them, while to be brutally honest, John was struggling to pot a thing. Having seen Couch take the opener, John did manage to take a marathon 64 minute frame, the highlight of which being a classy shot from the final blue to pink, but this was to prove the exception to the rest of the session as Couch improved, making a superb 129 in frame six (though this was boosted by a fluke on the brown), on his way to a 7-1 lead.

While I hate to be too critical, John was very poor and I have heard speculation to suggest that we might not see him come out tomorrow, as was the case in the UK Championship when withdrew at 7-1 down to Andy Hicks citing an injured shoulder. Whether this is true I don’t know, but if he does play he will need to perform much better to stand any sort of chance of qualifying for the Crucible again.

UPDATE: John is playing again today, will be interesting to see if he can put some pressure on Matt…

Other matches

I did not see too much of the matches between Lee Spick/Adrian Gunnell and Stuart Pettman/Alan McManus, though I could tell from the scores that Lee Spick appeared to be playing very well once again this week. Ever since that second session against Stephen Craigie back in round one his scoring has been good and it was again the case today as he raced into a 4-0 lead at the interval. Adrian did fight back and make it 4-2, but Spick knocked in another century on the way to a 7-2 lead and seemingly a clash with Steve Davis.

The match between Pettman and McManus meanwhile was always tight and at 4-4, looks set to go the distance tomorrow…

Evening Session

Having left the venue for refreshments (beats paying the prices at the EISS), I returned for an evening session that promised both quick finishes and marathon matches.

Walden and Trump breeze through

Assuming that the matches resuming at 8-1 would not take too long to draw to a conclusion I decided to watch those first and both Ricky and Judd continued where they had left off this morning, racing to victory in about half an hour. Again I bumped into Martin Gould at this point, like many of the other players involved over the next few days he was watching the action in order to pass the time. He came across as a top bloke and answered the big question, how to correctly pronounce his name. It sounds like ”Gooled’ not ‘Gold’ so take note Dennis Taylor who said the latter during his UK Championship defeat to Shaun Murphy back in December!

Back on the table, the matches between Hicks/McLeod and Greene/Song which both promised to be lengthy affairs actually looked for a while like the might come to a swift conclusion as McLeod and Greene raced to sizeable leads.

Greene King

First though it was Greene who began to buckle under the pressure, Song closing from 7-1 to 8-6 to get himself right back into the match. This looked like becoming 8-7 in frame 15, but crucially when on a break of 21 and looking a certainty to clear, he snookered himself on the last red with just a 13 point lead and having made the escape, left Greene a tempter from distance.

Although it was far from easy, particularly given the context of the match at that time, Greene knocked it in and made probably the best 26 break he will make all season as he cleared to the pink for 9-6 and snapped a three frame losing streak. Indeed this proved to be absolutely key as a relieved Greene won the next for good measure and in doing so booked a tie with Ken Doherty next Tuesday, a rematch of their meeting at the Northern Ireland Trophy last August.

McLeod Nine

Like Gerard, Rory had moved into a commanding position this evening, leading 8-4 and 9-5 as he looked to book his place in the last 32. Of all the matches this evening though it was this one that had all the hallmarks of a late finish (they did not finish their morning session until 3:30pm!), and so it proved as Rory began to twitch, allowing Andy to make a 102 break on the way to 8-9.

In frame 18th though it was McLeod who had the first big chance and though he could only make 34, he was soon back in again to leave Andy needing a snooker to force a re-spot. He fought on for a while but the end was to come when McLeod himself managed to secure a nasty snooker which Andy missed and immediately conceded from. Rory mentioned to me that he had a headache after the first session but I expect that he will be feeling a lot better now!

Ford Motors to Final Round

Having started off brilliantly and let slip a 4-1 lead to resume this evening at 4-5, it was going to be interesting to see how Tom Ford fared tonight against qualifier Patrick Wallace who was bidding to win his third match of the week. The early signs for Tom were good as he shrugged off any disappointment to level up at 5-5, but the match was soon to slip into a pattern with both players consistently exchanging frames as Tom would draw level with a nice break before Patrick produced something equally as good to regain his lead.

This looked as if it might change during what would prove to be a crucial 17th frame as at 8-7 Wallace, he opened up with an excellent red on the way to 37 before playing a good safety to leave the cue ball tight on the baulk cushion. Tom though worked his way back into it with firstly a break of 25 which ended with a missed red to the left-centre and then what looked like becoming an excellent clearance as Patrick gave him another chance. Unfortunately for Tom however, this was to end at 28 as he missed a slightly awkward brown to the left-centre, though at this stage you could forgive almost anything with the pressure involved.

Patrick now looked to be well in command again, leaving Tom snookered on his next three visits to the table and in truth relying on a bit of luck to stay in it as his opponent dicatated the play. Eventually though Tom managed to turn the tide and knocked in a brilliant brown to win a hugely significant frame and draw level at 8-8.

Tom now had the momentum and it looked like he might move ahead for the first time in the session at one visit as he slowly increased his lead in the frame. As the break progressed however he began to lose ideal position and as is often the case, he could not keep on pulling out the terrific recovery shots he needed to get it back. It was Wallace now who had the chance and as the reds began to disappear it looked like 9-8 to him all over until crucially he snookered himself on the final yellow, leaving the frame back in the balance. Tom managed to take full advantage and when Wallace accidentally potted the pink when trying to lay the snooker he needed, Ford’s lead was confirmed.

Ford was now within sight of a hugely important win and it looked like he might seal it in one visit in the next frame having ended a cagey start to the frame with an excellent red to a baulk pocket. There was to prove another twist as he missed a red to the left-centre to give Patrick a lifeline, but eventually Tom managed to pick out another terrific red and secure an much-needed win. Awaiting him in the next round now will be Welshman Mark Williams though so it does not get any easier!

Wells done Daniel

The final match to come to conclusion this evening was that between young Daniel Wells and Scot Marcus Campbell, though at one point looked like this might come to an end sooner as well. At 7-5 to Daniel it looked like Marcus would pull one back before the interval, but from several points behind Daniel managed to come back and snatch it on the pink to lead 8-5 at the break and surely leave himself in an excellent position.

Marcus Campbell however had not read that script and as he began to come back, Wells started to miss a few and it looked like perhaps the pressure would prove too much for him this time. When it came to the deciding frame however it was Marcus who cracked, scoring only 24 from two gilt-edged opportunities. Wells by contrast was calm, composed and put together a brilliant, ultimately match-winning break of 65 as Marcus could only shake his head and look desperately on. You could see from Marcus’ body language how devastating this defeat was to him because he knew he had a great chance to win it and sadly for him he blew it.

For Daniel though this is another brilliant result as he cements his place on the tour for next season. Both he and his mum who was watching from the crowd were delighted and rightly so. With Barry Hawkins lying in wait now in the next round, could we be about to see another left-handed Welshman make an appearance at the Crucible?

Today’s Results

John Parrott 1-7 Matthew Couch
3-77(48), 70-58, 2-64, 26-50, 36-54, 8-129(129), 2-68(49), 7-70
Adrian Gunnell 2-7 Lee Spick
7-108(56,52), 38-65, 10-67, 36-67, 67-6, 71(62)-29, 45-80(63), 10-110(109), 55(55)-68(44)
Alan McManus 4-4 Stuart Pettman
63-49, 23-67(59), 76-1, 65-16, 26-69, 42-63, 83-36, 24-62
David Gilbert 3-6 Martin Gould
0-70(65), 82-46, 11-63, 95(91)-0, 39-76, 97(97)-0, 1-84, 6-63, 45-68
Rory McLeod 10-8 Andy Hicks
74(51)-13, 36-54, 73-45, 55-19, 40-69, 18-89, 0-82(64), 66-1, 78-42, 85(55)-44, 89-15, 87-29, 29-86(51), 92-38, 31-60, 32-68, 2-107(102), 73-30
Ricky Walden 10-1 Rod Lawler
67-48, 77(77)-0, 83-0, 76(76)-23, 74(73)-0, 128(128)-4, 68(58)-7, 74(58)-13, 0-60(54), 79-7, 96(66)-1
Tom Ford 10-8 Patrick Wallace
121(121)-0, 113(104)-12, 68-69, 66-35, 51-68, 67-54, 21-74, 23-66, 27-69,  59-39, 7-98(55), 85(65)-25, 50-74(66), 70-38, 12-76(76), 84-37, 58-47, 108(45,51)-6
Gerard Greene 10-6 Liu Song
102(68)-17, 15-84, 88(88)-0, 64-53, 73-5, 69-33, 104(104)-0, 58-70, 63-64, 17-74(55), 84-30, 36-61, 42-66, 64-51, 63-52
Judd Trump 10-1 Joe Delaney
85(62)-6, 72(43)-7, 48-63, 83-0, 67-26, 57-56, 67-21, 59(59)-47, 62-39, 104(100)-24, 85(78)-34
Marcus Campbell 9-10 Daniel Wells
53-71, 30-57, 81-5, 71-10, 74(57)-31, 58-41, 0-78, 34-61, 68-58, 14-88(48), 30-65, 30-63(62), 51-58, 96(50)-14, 84-45, 68-44, 18-62, 65-13, 25-65(65)