Snooker: Couch sees it all written in the stars

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MATTHEW COUCH'S surprise run of successes to the UK Championship quarter-finals was written in the stars - or so he claims.

"I'm not usually superstitious," said the world No 78 after reaching the last eight in Bournemouth yesterday with a 9-5 victory over the Nottingham youngster, Michael Holt. "But before I came down here I read my horoscope. It said I was in for a good run.

"I didn't read on any further in case the rest of it was bad news," said Couch, a Cancerian. "Yes, I am surprised to get this far. I'd never even been to the last 16 of a ranking tournament before I arrived in Bournemouth."

Couch's third win of the competition guarantees him a cheque for pounds 10,800, easily the best of his six-year professional career. "You don't really think about the money until the final ball is potted," the 24-year-old from Humberside said. "But it will certainly come in handy."

Couch began the morning with a 6-2 advantage from Sunday's opening session. "That enabled me to sleep soundly," he explained.

Despite a break of 71 from the first-round conqueror of the world No 8, Alan McManus, Holt could not make any great inroads into his deficit.

Couch, who next meets the Welshman Matthew Stevens or Rod Lawler of Liverpool, won the next two with breaks of 42 and 41 to lead 8-3. That gave him extra breathing space when Holt knocked in breaks of 86 and 76 to trail 8-5.

The world No 173 should have made it 8-6 but went in-off after potting the final yellow. Couch cleared up to the pink before he faltered badly. Fortunately for him he got a second chance moments later.