BRACKNELL’S Matt Ford has taken an early lead on an Over 40s tour that he so narrowly lost last season.

The 42-year-old clinched the first leg of the Cuestars South of England Seniors circuit in Bournemouth despite struggling with a new tip.

Ford pocketed £90 prize money after a 2-1 victory over first-time finalist Dan Hammond at Greenbaize Snooker Club.

In what proved to be the turning point of the first frame, Hammond, who had recorded a shock 2-1 victory over Ford in the group stages, fluked a red but missed a straightforward colour.

Ford then broke the back of the opener with a 39 break.

A handy run of 31 gave Hammond an early advantage in the next and he squared the match on the green. Both had excellent chances in the decider but it was Ford, trailing by 23 points with five reds left, who picked out a delicate plant into a middle pocket and went on to make 43 to leave his opponent needing snookers.

“I was under pressure,” admitted Ford. “He had his chances and probably deserved to win. I played my best shot on the black. I wasn’t happy with my tip and I had to play a reverse side screw shot to get on the yellow. I hit that really sweet.”

And he added with a laugh: “It was the only decent shot I played all day. I struggled but got there in the end.”

Ford overcame defending champion Mike Talmondt 2-1 in the last-eight and former champion John Hunter 2-0 in the semi-finals.

Last season he finished the seven-leg series with an identical record to Talmondt.

In the final event in Salisbury, Talmondt needed to beat his title rival in the last-eight and win the tournament to draw level.

The count-back system then come into play: most tournaments won, most runners-up, most semi-finals or most quarter-finals. Remarkably, they were the same and so performance in the final leg was the separating factor.

Ford, who played in the European Championships in Albania during the summer, also competes on the national VIA Creative Masters Tour and the World Seniors Tour run by Snooker Legends.

The 17-strong field for the Parris Cues-sponsored event returned 18 breaks of 40 or more. The second leg of eight is at Fareham Snooker Club on October 22.