Snooker: Meticulous Morgan deals easily with Dale

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DARREN MORGAN made three century breaks in Friday's opening session and another yesterday to complete his 9-3 win over his fellow Welshman Dominic Dale to reach the last 32 of the Liverpool Victoria UK championship at Preston Guild Hall.

The second of the season's eight world-ranking events offers the highest tariff in ranking points for any event except the Embassy World Championship.

Morgan's meticulous style has not always made him a crowd pleaser or television's preferred choice but he exemplifies grit and professionalism and, in top gear, the world quarter-finalist last spring is a threat to the best. For years, he competed in the shadow of his mother's fight against cancer. "For three months I hardly picked up a cue except for matches," the 31-year-old Welsh left-hander said.

It was not until late season that he was able to regain his appetite, losing 9-8 on the final black to Stephen Hendry in defence of his Irish Masters title and pushing Hendry to 13-10 in their world quarter-final.

Without warning, his father died a few days later, and that made him intensify his efforts. "I didn't want him looking down and cussing me that I'm not working hard enough," he said.

As the new season started, however, he could not fire on all cylinders. He stopped practising daily with Lee Walker, who gave Wales a second world quarter-finalist. "I was just playing frames and not practising long potting or specific things. I decided to go back to how I've always practised on my own," Morgan said.

He limited his practice to just a few frames with his friends and his brother Wayne, 26, who has made a couple of centuries in local league matches. "He was just as good as I was at that age but my father had put so much money into my snooker that he just couldn't do it for Wayne."

Morgan's breaks of 112, 108 and 110 assisted him to a 6-1 lead over Dale, last month's 100-1 winner of the grand prix at Bournemouth. "He played like a dream," said Dale after salvaging the last frame of the opening session with a run of 89.

Morgan left the arena to discover that his other brother, Roger, 29, had been rushed into hospital with a blood clot in his leg but learned that "he was lucky. The clot worked to the bottom of his leg instead of up, which is what killed my father."

Reassured that the problem was under control, Morgan yesterday won two of the first three frames before closing out with a break of 118.

Alain Robidoux, the Canadian whose run to the World semi finals helped him to a ranking of ninth at the end of last season, continued his miserable start to the new campaign by going out 9-3 to Pakistan's No 1, Shokat Ali.

During the summer, Robidoux sent in his cue for minor repair. In the process, it was irreparably damaged and on his return with a new cue he lost his first four matches by 5-1 margins before he came to Preston.