LIAM Highfield believes he benefited from a delayed start to his UK Championship opener against Jackson Page, after marching into the second round with a 6-3 win over the Welsh youngster, writes PETER WHITE.

Having been scheduled for a 9am start at the Marshall Arena, the clash was one of four to be put back following the late arrival of Covid-19 test results.

While perhaps a potential disruption to routine and game preparation, Highfield used the extra hour available to get a feel for his cue, and duly settled into his rhythm once the match got going to take a commanding 4-1 lead.

Page hit back with two successive frames before Highfield comfortably saw out the contest, and while highlighting there is still room for improvement, the world No.60 was pleased with his first showing since a round one defeat at the Northern Ireland Open last week.

“The delay just gave me a chance to go to the practice table and get my arm going,” the 29-year-old said. “I hadn’t played much in the last few days so it was a good chance to warm up if anything.

“I was stone cold and the extra time gave me time to get going, so maybe it affected others more than me if they’d done their practice at home or whatever.

“I cued OK. I tried to play a bit quicker than I have done lately and that seemed to help me in the balls. My long game wasn’t great, but overall I thought it was a solid performance.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from Jackson. He was quite aggressive and at times probably made it a bit too easy for me.”

The UK Championship has temporarily moved from its usual home of the Barbican Centre in York to Milton Keynes due to Covid-19 restrictions, and Highfield admits the venue change has taken some gloss off the occasion.

But having jumped over the first hurdle at the maiden Triple Crown event of the season, Highfield is hoping to emulate his run to the tournament’s last 16 four years ago, despite facing a tough match against triple world champion Mark Selby next.

Highfield added: “There’s still a bit of a buzz around the tournament because it’s so big, but I think York makes the UK and unfortunately we’re not there.

“With where I’m ranked the second-round matches are always really tough, and it doesn’t get much tougher than Mark Selby. But I beat him a couple of times early in my career, he gives you chances to get involved in the game and hopefully I’ll be able to take them.”

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