Mark Allen admits the heartache of losing in the Northern Ireland Open is eased by the tournament being held almost 300 miles away from Belfast, writes Will Jennings.
Antrim’s world No.8 fell to a 4-1 defeat against world No.25 Scott Donaldson in the third round to extend his disappointing run of form at his home tournament.
Allen has never reached the semi-final of the Home Nations event since his maiden appearance in 2016, usually held at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall but this year at the behind closed doors Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes owing to Covid-19.
The Champion of Champions lamented his inability to get going but says the lack of expectation in Buckinghamshire, not Belfast, dilutes the pain of defeat.
Asked if the intensity of emotion matched that of losing in Northern Ireland, the 34-year-old said: “It doesn’t feel that way at all this year.
It wouldn't be a Mark Allen performance without centuries.
Just the one today - a wonderful clearance of 130 - but most importantly, he's into the last 32 of the https://t.co/0mCRoqdsmX Northern Ireland Open!
Scott Donaldson tomorrow 👌 #NIOpen #HomeNations pic.twitter.com/LO34wdrCan
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) November 18, 2020
“In the build-up there’s been no pressure on me. The only pressure on me this week was the pressure I put on myself at every tournament, and that was a good thing. Every tournament feels like the same at the minute, which is far from ideal.
“To be honest I never really got started today – I lost the white a few times when I had chances in the balls but all in all, Scott played much better than I did and deserved the win.
“He was due to get one over on me but he completely outplayed me today. The few chances that I had, my positional play wasn’t as good as it has been.
“Scott was very good over distance – his long potting was very good, some very good safety so all in all it was a good performance by him.”
The Scot, who had never previously beaten Allen on the six occasions they’d met, struck breaks of 86, 74 and 51 and while Allen levelled the scores with a 61 in the second, Donaldson rattled off three straight frames to move into the last 16.
Next up for Allen is a tilt at the prestigious UK Championship, one of snooker’s Triple Crown events alongside the World Championship and Masters which is also being held in Milton Keynes.
Here’s a couple of views of table 1 here at the @WeAreWST @BetVictor European Masters #snooker at the Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes. Fantastic how the sport of #snooker has made the changes to keep playing and broadcasting tournaments 👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/jdy9MCbWIH
— Phil Seymour 🎙 (@announcerphil) September 21, 2020
Allen has reached the final and semi-finals in York over the last two years and reckons his game is in good enough shape to launch another assault on the title.
“I know my game’s good – I know I still need to work on a couple of things but all in all I’m not going to get too down on myself because of one poor day at the office,” he added.
“I’m just looking forward to the UK Championship – it’s a shame we’re not going to York.”