Saturday, 1 October 2011

Paul Collier's Premier League nights: Doncaster

Resident columnist Paul Collier returns to OnCue to pen his thoughts on the latest Premier League night.

This week saw the wagon roll up in Doncaster. There was a good crowd in, which was hardly a surprise given how close it is to the home of snooker, Sheffield.

Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan came out on top but crossed the line after Ali Carter was forced to forfeit the fourth frame having fouled three consecutive shots when not snookered.

Here's what Paul had to say....

A bizarre end to another great night of Premier League snooker.

It's only the second time in 20 years as a referee that I've had to enforce this rule. It's not a nice thing to do to a player, but the rules are the rules.

The last time I had to call a frame for three 'foul and misses' was in a qualifier in Blackpool back in 1994. Mick Fisher was playing Belgium's Patrick Delsemme.

It was the second frame of the match and Mick was the offender. I'll always remember this moment because Patrick could hardly speak a word of English and didn't have a clue what was going on. The players obviously know the rule, but it happens so infrequently, that it surprises them.

Of course, I felt for Ali because it was such a massive frame. It cost him the match.

I was especially sympathetic to him because his first shot rolled off the cushion. The table fitters do a fabulous job, but at the Premier League, the table only really has about six hours to settle. It's put up on springy floors of sports halls and the players know they've got to be careful playing those kind of fine shots.

Ali seemed to hit them all firm enough, but what puzzled me, was why he played the same shot three times. He had to get it exactly spot on, and it was a real risk.

I spoke to Ali briefly after the game and he said he was trying to hit the third shot half ball but didn't play it quite right. He was disappointed, but he can proud of his first ever performance in the Premier League. He adapted to the shot-clock easily and had a great 3-0 win against Ding in the semi-final.

He was only 2-1 down when the incident occurred. Maybe, he could have gone on to win it with a bit of fortune.

I think Ali could be a dark horse in this year's Premier League. He's in it for the first time and is taking it very seriously. He's wanted to be part of it for such a long time, he'll be giving it his all.

I've been up at the Championship League with him for a few seasons now, and he always says he wants to qualify. I remember in 2008, the year Joe Perry got in, he won lots of money through the Championship League, but told me he'd happily trade all that for a place on the Premier League.

Because of that, I'm pleased to see him here. He could be a player to watch out for.

Despite Ali's bad luck this week, you cannot take anything away from Ronnie. He loves this format and is still the man to beat.

He gets great support at the events and will be fighting for the title again, for sure. To beat him in the Premier League, someone will have to play very well. Like Shaun Murphy did in 2009.

I had a chat with Ronnie this week and he was fretting a little about his ranking. He's genuinely worried about falling out of the top 16 now.

He may give off a bravado that he's not bothered, but after 20 minutes talking to him, you realise just how much he cares. He's travelling around playing in a lot of events this season and is determined to push up the rankings, not fall down.

All he's ever wanted to do since the age of 11 or 12 is play snooker, so don't be fooled in to thinking he doesn't care. It's not true.

He said in his interview with Andy Goldstein after the win in Doncaster that there's more boxes he wants to tick in his career. To do that, he'll need to get back in the top eight to avoid playing the best players earlier in tournaments.

It's great news for his fans to hear him talk about new targets.

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