English Open free semi-finals betting preview and tips including David Gilbert and Mark Allen

English Open semi-finals preview
English Open semi-finals preview

We're at the semi-finals stage of the English Open with David Gilbert chasing a first ranking-title success - Richard Mann previews the action.

Recommended bets

2pts David Gilbert to win the English Open at 11/4

3pts Mark Allen to beat Mark Selby at evens


And then there were four.

After 124 matches, packed into five days, across five rounds, the picture is finally becoming clearer with four men left battling it out to become 2019 English Open champion and take home a first prize of £70,000.

Ronnie O'Sullivan has already fallen by the wayside, so too current world champion Judd Trump, while Neil Robertson only made it as far as the third round.

Still standing are Mark Selby, Mark Allen, David Gilbert and Tom Ford after another engrossing day in Crawley on Friday.

With Selby's great escape against Mei Xi Wen keeping alive his hopes of winning his first major title in over a year, he is now vying for outright favouritism with Allen at around the 7/4 mark, the Scottish Open champion having again showed his liking for the Home Nations Series with a brilliant run to the last four this week.

Allen was one of the stand-out players of the 2018/2019 season, winning the International Championship before that victory in Scotland as well as finishing runner-up at the UK Championship and making three more semi-final appearances.

The most telling thing about Allen's performances last year were that he produced his best snooker in the early part of the season before Christmas, with those efforts understandably catching up with him thereafter.

Allen has hit the ground running once again, reaching the last four of the International Championship and Shanghai Masters before making seamless progress to the final here.

His 4-0 defeat of Barry Hawkins saw Allen produce some of his best snooker of the season with breaks of 60, 89, 100 and 129 showcasing the wonderful touch in the balls that makes him such a dangerous and heavy scorer.

In truth, Hawkins was the first top-level player Allen has come up against in Crawley so the fact he could produce his best snooker when it was required most appears significant.

Allen clearly has his game in good shape at present and having easily overpowered Lee Walker in their quarter-final, he ought to be favourite for his semi-final clash with Selby.

Mark Selby was defeated by Hossein Vafaei
Mark Selby

As Selby alluded to after his victory over Xi Wen, serious question marks remain over his own form: "In the last 12-15 months I've been playing one good game and then playing a poor game and not really getting any consistency, for what reason I don't know."

In fairness, Selby has looked sharp and scored well enough all week but he was way off the pace early in his quarter-final against Xi Wen, trailing 3-0 until staging a typically stubborn comeback, and it is hard to envisage Allen being so charitable and allowing him back into the match in the same way Xi Wen did.

While there have been signs this season that Selby isn't far away from finding top gear again, particularly in the break-building department, he still looks short of confidence as well as form and I'm firmly in the Allen camp in this one.

The even-money about the Northern Irishman progressing to the semi-final looks too good to miss and should be backed accordingly.

With that in mind, the case for Allen in the outright market is a solid one with bet365 the standout at 2/1 for him to lift the trophy on Sunday.

Mark Allen
Mark Allen

Nevertheless, for all I'm convinced he will prove too strong for Selby on Saturday, I'm happy to bet that World Championship semi-finalist Gilbert will prove an altogether different proposition should they meet in the final and he looks the bet at 11/4 in the outright market.

Gilbert has played supremely well in Crawley, knocking in four centuries in beating the likes of Stuart Carrington, Kurt Maflin and Zhao Xintong and then Ricky Walden's in Friday afternoon's quarter-final.

Gilbert hasn't had an easy time of it on paper this week, coming up against a host of talented operators, but he has eased through the event like the winner in waiting and the standard of snooker he and Walden produced in their high-quality encounter on Friday was as good as anything seen all week.

Walden can count himself unlucky to not make the last four himself having made breaks of 125, 91, 51 to lead 4-3 but Gilbert never once looked flustered, his own game appearing in fine order, and it was pleasing to see him produce nerveless breaks of 51 and 75 in frames eight and nine to firstly level the match and then win it.

Having now established himself in the top 16 and with that desperate Crucible semi-final loss to Higgins appearing to have taught him some valuable lessons, the time is now for last season's World Open and German Masters runner-up to finally win that maiden ranking title he so dearly deserves.

No longer is it a question of whether Gilbert is good enough to take that next step, Sheffield proved beyond doubt that he is, but whether he can handle the pressure that comes with trying to cross that winning line.

Again, I would argue that Sheffield and the way he and Higgins slugged it out over four sessions and three days of snooker in what was one of the great Crucible matches proved beyond doubt that Gilbert has all the tools required, and more, to win a major event like this.

Of course, before any thoughts can turn to Sunday's final and lifting the Steve Davis Trophy Gilbert must overcome Ford in Saturday's second semi-final.

Fresh from making a 147 maximum break against Shaun Murphy on Thursday and a 5-0 drubbing of Tian Pengfei in the quarter-finals, Ford is sure to be brimming with confidence but it is worth noting that Saturday will be his first taste of playing on the main television table all week.

The switch between tables has certainly caught players out before and Neil Robertson felt that switching to one of the outside tables contributed to his heavy defeat at the hands of Xintong in the third round, so different were conditions from the main table.

Ford will be the only one of the four semi-finalists to have not played on the main table prior to the last-four stage and I see this as a real disadvantage against against a fast starter like Gilbert.

Having failed to play anywhere near his best when reaching the semi-finals of the UK Championship last year, I fear for Ford again and the potential for a safe passage to Sunday's final makes Gilbert even more alluring in the outright market.

Posted at 2330 BST on 18/10/19.

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