THERE are two ways of reflecting on Matt Ford’s victory in the second leg of the Cuestars South of England Championship Tour.
On paper, Ford (pictured) fired in a century in the group stages, won all three knockout matches 3-0 and wrapped up the last frame of the final with breaks of 54 and 38.
But the truth is that the 40-year-old from Bracknell “struggled” all day in the event at Woking Snooker Centre that attracted a 20-strong field.
“I’ve been struggling for consistency,” he insisted. “One frame I’m potting everything and the next frame I’m missing blacks off the spot.
“I can’t believe I won today, to be honest.”
The defending rankings champion kicked off the round-robin group stages with a 2-0 defeat by Neil Herd (Frome, Somerset). Then at 1-1 in his second match with Martin Luker (Swindon), Ford cleared with a 118 break, by far the highest of the day.
Trailing by 38 points with two reds left in the deciding frame of his third game against Christian Chislett (Basingstoke), Ford cleared to win on the black.
“I was very lucky to beat him,” he said. “Had I lost that, I wouldn’t have got through my group.”
He then didn’t drop a frame for the rest of the day. A 2-0 victory over Craig Marsh (Newbury) booked a spot in the quarter-finals. Former champion Jon Charlton (Haslemere, Surrey) and Dominic Holmes (Godalming) were both dispatched 3-0.
And although Herd perhaps deserved a little more for his efforts in the first two frames of the final on the match table, Ford was gifted a chance in the third with 13 reds spread like a practice routine.
He ‘only’ made 54 and then a second visit yielded 38.
“It’s been like that all day – battling, nicking frames on the colours,” said Ford, who pocketed £100 prize money. “It’s not good to watch. I can’t explain why it suddenly becomes easier.
“My B game is not bad. I played some good safety. My safety has improved over the last few years. Now I’m getting older, I’m not as reckless.
“I lost in the English Amateur Championship in the second round last week and that knocked my confidence a little bit.”
Elsewhere, former England Universities captain Holmes was delighted to make the semi-finals for the first time after suffering eight quarter-final defeats in 18 Championship Tour outings since making his debut in Poole nearly five years ago.
Staines potter Alan Harvey made his Cuestars debut at the age of 43 and finished third in his five-man group.
Three-time champion Charlton leads the rankings by two points from Ford and leg-one winner Seb Worrall (Swindon). Labeeb Ahmed (Coulsdon) is one point further back in fourth.
The third leg of six is at The Crucible Sports & Social Club, Newbury, on Sunday, January 17.
Matt Ford: 118, 54.
Christian Chislett: 64.
Paul Quinnell: 57.
Craig Marsh: 56.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP POSITIONS
GROUP A: 1st, Dominic Holmes (Sovereign SC, Farnborough); 2nd, Labeeb Ahmed (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 3rd, Alan Harvey, (Staines); 4th, Henry Eastwood (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 5th, Ally Pollard (Salisbury SC).
GROUP B: 1st, Jon Charlton (Aldingbourne Social Club, Chichester); 2nd, Ricky Hong Chin (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 3rd, Paul Quinnell (Farnham Liberal Club); 4th, George Heatley (Woking SC); 5th, Josh Saywell (Woking SC).
GROUP C: 1st, Neil Herd (Player’s, Westbury); 2nd, Matt Ford (Sunninghill Comrades Club); 3rd, Craig Marsh (Crucible Sports & Social Club, Newbury); 4th, Christian Chislett (Selsey RBL); 5th, Martin Luker (Jesters, Swindon).
GROUP D: 1st, Emin Thorose (Liberal Club, High Wycombe); 2nd, Anthony Rice (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Martin Wallace (Crowthorne RBL); 4th, Matt Davis (Jesters, Swindon). 5th, David Rice (Salisbury SC).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Holmes 3 A Rice 2, Ford 3 Charlton 0, Herd 3 Chin 0, Thorose 3 Ahmed 2.
SEMI-FINALS (£25, 15 points): Ford 3 Holmes 0, Herd 3 Thorose 0.
FINAL (£100/£50, 25/18 points): Ford 3 Herd 0.
Report and picture by Tim Dunkley.