BRADFORD, runners-up to Norwich last year, suffered a heart-breaking black-ball defeat in the quarter-finals of this year’s UK League Snooker Championships at the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds.
The Bradford team of Kevin Firth, Mark Slater, Gareth Green, Josh Walker and Anthony Green breezed through their last-16 group matches against Thames Valley (5-0), Newbury (5-0) and Ormskirk (4-1) and headed the overnight table, despite losing 4-1 to Leeds A.
Slater gave them a Saturday boost with a superb 124 clearance in the last frame of the day and, despite a break of 100 from Firth, they lost their opening match 3-2 to Preston on Sunday before progressing after 3-2 victories over Reading and Coventry.
Although Bradford were without champion Wayne Cooper, his replacement Walker performed admirably, winning six of his eight matches, and, also thanks to Gareth Green, put them 2-0 ahead against multiple finalists West Midlands in the quarter-finals.
Anthony Green could do very little in his frame, his opponent clearing with a break of 80, while Firth struggled during a scrappy frame, leaving the deciding frame between Slater and Robbie James, the competition’s all-time highest-ranked player.
This went to the wire as both players matched each other and when it appeared that James had won by potting the brown, he went in off.
Slater picked off brown, blue and pink and, after an exchange of safety on the black, it was James who took the frame and match, albeit fortunately by fluking the black while attempting a safety.
A second Bradford side was put together at short notice as a team from the south dropped out at the 11th hour.
The second string, featuring Dave Stirk, Peter Hamilton, James Metcalfe, Russell Morgan and Darren Goy, performed admirably in beating Southport and Thames Valley B while narrowly going down to Norwich, who won all their group games.
The competition was won by Ormskirk, who beat Huddersfield in the final.
* BRADFORD billiards team captain Stephen Kershaw made it through the qualifying stages of the English Grand Masters, beating Graham Guest and Ron Bickerdike while narrowly losing to Mark Graham.
The finals day will be at Nuneaton in February – but Paul Devitt just missed out on qualifying, despite finishing second in his group.
Both are in action on Saturday in the LITEtask British Open at Cue Gardens and are joined by Bradford’s former professional Mark Hirst, as well as Jason Devanney.
* IN THE Yorkshire Inter-District League, Bradford’s billiards side went down 9-4 at Huddersfield, while Bradford’s No 1 snooker side lost 4-2 at home to defending champions Sheffield No 1.
* THE semi-finals of the Bradford Snooker Handicap take place at Great Horton Conservative Club on Saturday (8pm), with Paul Davey (Undercliffe Cricket) facing Andy Boswell (Girlington Cons) and Michael Sharp (Cullingworth Cons) meeting Joe Hollings (Eccleshill Vic Cons).
The final is scheduled for a week on Saturday.