Mark Allen: NI player struggles to cope with the pressure of playing at his home event

Mark Allen with the 2018 International Championship trophy
Mark Allen beat Neil Robertson to win the International Championship in November
Betway UK Championship
Venue: York Barbican Dates: 27 November-9 December
Coverage: Watch live across BBC Two, BBC iPlayer, BBC Red Button, Connected TV, the BBC Sport website and mobile app from 1 December.

Northern Ireland's Mark Allen says he struggles to handle the pressure of competing in his home tournament.

Allen beat Egypt's Basem Eltahhan to reach the second round at the UK Championship in his first event since his early Northern Ireland Open exit.

The County Antrim native crashed out at the first hurdle in Belfast last week.

"Everyone knows I don't really enjoy playing on my home turf and I feel the pressure a bit but lots of positives to take into this week," said Allen.

"Belfast for me didn't really happen this year - as it does every year - but I've got good form the last two tournaments before that, a semi-final and a win.

The Masters champion won the International Championship in China earlier this month and narrowly lost his semi-final at the Champion of Champions tournament the following week before the disappointing defeat at his home event.

Allen's performances this season have helped him climb to seventh in the world rankings and leaves him as one of the favourites to claim his first UK Championship title.

"I feel like I'm one of the contenders this year. I've probably come here in recent years not being one of the names on many people's lips but I think with my form this year in general I feel like I've got a good chance." the 32-year-old added.

"I've been around and I know not to get too carried away with a win in the first round so there's a long way to go.

"This tournament comes into its own when it gets to the last-16 stage and when everything closes in, the seating comes in on the side. It feels like a proper event then but it's a little bit of a circus up to that.

Allen is not the only Northern Irishman through to the second round at York this week as veteran Joe Swail recovered from 5-3 behind to beat Michael White in their first-round match.

"I went in to watch the last two frames and Joe doing his usual - twitching like mad and thinking the world's on his shoulders," added Allen of his compatriot.

"He played two really good frames and Michael missed a good chance to win 6-4 but under pressure Joe's very good and he played a perfect last frame and didn't give Michael a shot.

"He's going to be a match for anyone because a confident Joe Swail is a dangerous man and everyone knows what his record is like in previous years and if he can just let his arm go and play with a bit of confidence he's capable of beating anyone."

Allen will play either Scotland's Rory McLeod or England's Peter Lines in the second round while Swail will face Jak Jones of Wales on Sunday.

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