Allen and Hawkins Mount Manchester Challenge

Mark Allen and Barry Hawkins both won as the first round in the Players Championship came to a conclusion at Event City on Wednesday.

Barry Hawkins Preston
Barry Hawkins beat Gerard Greene in the 2014 final – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

2015 runner-up Mark Williams is out, though, after falling in a decider to fellow Welshman Dominic Dale in Manchester.

Williams, who perhaps would have fancied his chances in the top half of the draw in the absence of world no.1 Mark Selby, made a break of 68 to lead 3-2 but Dale dominated the final two frames with runs of 82 and 61 for a 4-3 triumph over his countryman.

Northern Ireland’s Allen repeated the trick against namesake Mark Davis, reversing a 3-2 deficit by controlling the final two frames to clinch it at the death.

Allen, aside from recent World Grand Prix champion Shaun Murphy, is the highest ranked player left in the top half of the draw and will be disappointed if he doesn’t now go far this week.

The 29 year-old is beset by inconsistency woes, not only during seasons but also within tournaments and even matches themselves.

Too often does he build up leads playing seemingly unbeatable snooker, only to subsequently allow his opponent back into the game all too easily.

With Mark King, who beat Sam Baird 4-2, his next challenger, Allen will be expected to at least make the quarter-finals where his attentions would no doubt then start thinking about perhaps adding a third ranking event crown to his CV.

Hawkins, meanwhile, wasn’t at his best but produced a workmanlike performance to see off a dogged Michael Holt 4-2.

Hawkins won this tournament two years ago and, with the prize money from that triumph coming off his ranking tally, along with the sizeable sum to be deducted following his run to the semi-finals of the 2014 World Championship, the Kent cueist is defending a lot of ranking points at the moment and a dramatic plummet down the standings could ensue if he doesn’t perform well this month and next.

Elsewhere, Matthew Selt, a last-minute replacement for Selby who withdrew due to personal issues, took full advantage of his unexpected opportunity by comfortably beating Andrew Higginson 4-1.

Ryan Day continued his solid form this season by inflicting a similar loss on Kyren Wilson, also prevailing by three frames helped by some heavy scoring as he compiled breaks of 107, 98 and 91.

Finally, Englishmen Ricky Walden and Robert Milkins booked their spots in the last 16 with 4-1 victories over Tom Ford and Tian Pengfei respectively.

The full second round takes place on Thursday with the format remaining the short sprint of best of seven frames.

In the afternoon, the televised encounters include the mouthwatering clash between Ding Junhui and Michael White, where top 16 implications and automatic qualification for the World Championship are at stake, to be followed by another intriguing tie between Judd Trump and Ali Carter.

The evening’s session sees Hawkins up against Milkins, before Murphy and Dale do battle.

As is the case all week, coverage is on ITV4, Eurosport and selective online bookmaker websites.

Click here to view the draw.

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