Semi finals day at Telford – and I get a lie in of sorts. The ice age has finally disappeared and has been replaced by paths that resemble paths and not skating rinks!
Of course it is also Saturday which means that attention is drawn towards final score and having seen Hartlepool defeat Bournemouth on their travels attention now switches to St James’s – where Newcastle sink Liverpool 3-1. Apologies to fans of the Reds reading this – but the Mags deserve a happy ending after being reduced to a laughing stock this week.
Eyes are diverted to Strictly and X Factor – and my phone is ringing off the hook with people asking me to help them on something -two jobs I do tonight- reporter and revealer of the strictly result on the forums.
And so to the match and what a classic at night as Murphy comes storming back at Williams – recovering from 6-3 down to put himself in a winning position.
Bring on the final
FORMER world champion Mark Williams edged a see saw thriller against Shaun Murphy to reach the final of the UK Championship with a 9-8 victory.
The Welshman, who had struggled in earlier matches against Stephen Hendry and Mark Joyce certainly raised his game a notch today in the afternoon session, but had to withstand a Murphy stampede at night.
Williams dominated the first frame clinching it with breaks of 46 and 38 and then took a tactical second with the help of a 54. But Murphy was determined not to allow the Welshman to have things all his own way and responded with a 91. Yet any hopes of being level at the mid session interval were quickly snuffed out by Williams who hammered in a long red and proceeded to make 73 to restore his two frames buffer. Williams looked set too to go 4-1 ahead when going well on a break of 53 but then suffered a thunderous kick in potting the yellow. It was to be the turning point in the frame and Murphy rolled in breaks of 29 and 33 to close to 2-3.
And that reprieve only served to harden Murphy’s resolve. The Englishman had not produced the standard of snooker that he had to see off Neil Robertson but a 45 combined with winning a safety battle on the colours to level at 3-3. The last two frames of the session were to go the way of Williams, with the help of a 45 to lead 4-3 and then capitalised on Murphy’s miss on a straight red with the rest to clear with 34 and lead 5-3.
Murphy badly needed the first frame of the evening session if he was to stay in contention and avoid a heavy defeat but his inability to take their chances when they presented themselves. It seemed to be catching as Williams was missing a good ratio of pots. With the scores showing 47-23 in favour of the Welshman it was Williams who finally strung together enough points to lead 6-3.
And it looked to be getting progressively worse for the Englishman as he missed a black on 23 to let Mark in with a run of 58 before missing a red to the corner. But then Williams erred as he failed to escape a snooker on two occasion and with Murphy now lying 44-58 in arrears whoever sunk the last red would be favourite to take the frame. The matter was settled when Williams left the red sitting over the centre pocket and Murphy helped himself to a vital 25 to capture the frame and trail 4-6. Encouraged Shaun then took full advantage of a wild attempt at a long red from Williams and stroked in a mid length red with the rest and made a controlled frame winning break of 81 to close to 5-6. Game on between the two former UK and World Champions.
Murphy was now hitting his stride and drilling in a long red from baulk set Shaun on his way to a 129 clearance that squared the match at the mid session interval at 6-6. Could the timing of the interval swing the match?
The answer was to be no as Murphy capitalised on Williams who was now forced to sit bemused and work out where everything had gone wrong. He stroked in an 107 to lead 7-6 and left the the Welshman rooted to his chair as he fired in a 66 in a run of 489 unaswered points.
And counting as Murphy took full advantage of Williams leaving a red to the centre – after another errant safety. With the Welshman, who may well have not known if he was coming or going it was Murphy who closed in on a place in the final. Finally Mark managed to end a dismal sequence of 517 points without potting a ball himself as he sank a close range red and took control of fifteenth frame to lead 59-28 and sealed it to end a sequence of five frames without reply.
It was Mark who enjoyed first opportunity in the sixteenth frame as he stepped in with a 55 only to miss a red to the centre. Given a chance to counter Shaun chipped away at the lead with a 29 before playing safe. With three reds left on the table Mark pulled a rabbit from the hat with a long red from under the baulk cushion, and then put Shaun in desperate trouble by snookering the Englishman behind the brown on the baulk cushion. As Shaun’s escape split the two reds and left an easy starter the question was asked off Mark. Could he hold his nerve and clear to force a decider.
So to the decider, and a fitting climax to a wonderful match that swung one way and the other before settling with the Welshman. With a powerfully struck red from baulk Mark put himself into the box seat with some outrageous long pots. The break came to an end on 34 with the double world champion heaping the pressure on Murphy with a punishing safety.
It looked to be the pivotal moment as Shaun struck the red and missed, and to compound his agony saw it roll into a pottable position. Clipping in the red Williams followed with the yellow. But he was not able to capitalise and could only make 11 before running out of position and having to play a negative safety. As Shaun fought to keep his hopes alive he lured Mark into an error. A risky long red was left in a pottable positon for Murphy and he dispatched it and followed with 29 before being forced into a safety that Mark could not escape from. One red left on the table and the scores at 34-45 in favour of Mark and the blue covering the entrance to the “green” pocket.
Blessed with a supreme talent for sealing miraculous pots Williams took a deep breath and lined up the red. It flew into the “yellow” pocket and the Welshman finally brought to an end of three hours of the most compelling drama as he cleared up to the pink to win 9-8 and set up a showdown with John Higgins in the final.