Friday 9 December 2016

Ricky Walden and Mark Allen reach Players Championship final

Published 27/03/2016 | 00:01

Ricky Walden is a finalist in Manchester
Ricky Walden is a finalist in Manchester

Ricky Walden will face Mark Allen in the final of the Players Championship in Manchester on Sunday, with both aiming to win a ranking event on British soil for the first time.

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Walden was never behind as he beat Barry Hawkins 6-3 while by contrast Allen reeled off four frames in a row to overcome Shaun Murphy 6-4 in the second semi-final.

Walden took the opening frame and superb back-to-back breaks of 73 and 104 put him 4-1 up before a knock of 87 in the seventh made it 5-2.

Second seed Hawkins managed a 119 break in frame two and did reduce his arrears to 5-3 but Walden edged the ninth frame thanks to a break of 51 to seal victory and a place in the final.

It had been a poor season for the world number 11 until this week as he had failed to go past the last 16 of a ranking tournament. The 33-year-old admitted he had been tinkering with his game too much but reverted back to basics this week.

"I have played well in every match this week and I showed some good match play today when I needed to," Walden told the worldsnooker.com website. "I have stayed positive and hit the ball nicely. I'm just playing the shots on merit as naturally as I can rather than worrying about my technique as I was before.

"I have been through some horrible and frustrating times in the last few months when I was trying to make technical changes and it wasn't working. I have felt my game was coming back for the last few weeks and now I'm showing it. It's nice to show some form with the World Championship coming up.

"I'm absolutely delighted. It will be brilliant tomorrow (Sunday) when my friends and family see me walk into the arena and hopefully lift the trophy."

However, Allen will be hoping to avenge a defeat to Walden in the final of the 2014 International Championship.

The Northern Irishman was behind 2-0 and 4-2 but he made a break of 134 in frame three on his way to repeating the 6-4 victory he enjoyed over Murphy in January's Masters.

Allen joked: "Given the way I have played this week, if I win the title tomorrow it will be the greatest sporting achievement since Northern Ireland qualifying for the Euros!

"I felt like I was just hanging on at 4-2, then Shaun started to miss a few and I never gave up. I think it's the sign of a good player.

"Snooker's easy when you're playing well but at the moment there are more bad days than good and I'm still winning. I have struggled with my game for the last six months and I'm prepared for it now."

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