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Mark Allen slams “disgustingly bad” table at the Northern Ireland Open

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Allen described the table as “unplayable” after defeating Xiao (Taka G Wu/Alamy Live News)

Mark Allen slammed the “disgustingly bad” table conditions following his Last 16 win over Xiao Guodong at the Northern Ireland Open.

The home favourite, who lifted the Alex Higgins trophy in Belfast 12 months ago, remained on course for a successful title defence after putting Xiao to the sword 4-0 at the Waterfront Hall on Thursday.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Allen scraped through a dogged last-32 clash with Andy Lee that finished after midnight, with runs of 57 and 51 his best contributions.

And he once again struggled to produce his trademark break-building and fluency, a break of 70 in frame two representing his only scoring visit that surpassed 50 throughout the contest.

Although the Pistol, who will play Mark Williams in the last eight, would later reveal that the conditions prevented him from doing so.

“I can say it now that I’ve won 4-0 – that table is disgustingly bad,” Allen told Eurosport. “That’s as diplomatic as I could’ve put it.

“It’s just so different from the first two days’ play; it’s heavy, it’s drifting, it’s playing a bit tighter than normal.

“It’s just horrible to play on, so it’s just a matter of getting four frames and getting through to the next round.

“Hopefully, I’ll scrape through to Saturday with the one table, and it’ll get re-covered; that’s what my eyes are on now.

“The conditions were great in the first couple of rounds; the first two or three days were amazing. You saw all the breaks flying in and people playing great snooker, but when it’s like that, you just have to win and not worry about good snooker.”

During Home Nations tournaments, the main table in the arena traditionally undergoes a single re-cover ahead of the semi-finals – something that Allen has urged WST to address.

“World Snooker base their re-covers off the old format where there were 32 players at the tournament, so it was always the re-cover at the semi-final stage,” the six-time ranking event winner explained.

“Now you’ve got 82 players here, they need an extra re-cover at that last-16 or quarter-final stage because the table’s nearly unplayable there. It doesn’t lend itself to good snooker at all.

“We’ve been crying out for years to try to get an extra re-cover in. With the greatest respect, it’s not a lot of money to do three tables.

“They’re normally pretty good at putting their hands in their pockets, but that’s something they need to change because that last-16 and quarter-final stage at the Home Nations is nearly unplayable.”

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