A WINCHESTER snooker player was mistaken for a drug dealer two hours before making his first appearance in a final on an over-40s circuit.

Dan Hammond lost 2-1 to Bracknell’s Matt Ford in the first leg of the Cuestars South of England Seniors Tour in Bournemouth.

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 31 gave Hammond an early advantage in the next and he squared the match on the green.

Both players had excellent chances in the decider but it was Ford, trailing by 23 points with five reds left, who made 43 to leave his opponent needing snookers.

Earlier, Hammond, based at Chandlers Ford SC, had a bizarre encounter while sitting in his car during a long wait between his 2-1 quarter-final victory over Mark Tillison (Portsmouth) and his last-four clash with Neil Herd (Frome).

Staff at the Kings Arms pub, which shares a car park with the Greenbaize Snooker Club, became suspicious of the man on his phone.

Two of then tapped on his window and asked if he was all right. Once Hammond said he was in a snooker tournament, they revealed their concerns that he was a drug dealer!

Suitably amused, the 40-year-old from Winchester - whose highest break is 83 - returned to the club and defeated Herd 2-1 to reach his first final in his seventh outing on the tour.

The second leg of eight is at Fareham Snooker Club on Sunday, October 22.

CONNOR Benzey and Olly Gibbs qualified for the knockout stage of the first leg of the EASB Regional Junior Tour South at Waterlooville Sports Bar.

Benzey, who finished second in the South West rankings last season, was beaten 2-0 by Harlow-based Alex Clenshaw, the eventual tournament winner, in the quarter-finals.

Gibbs went out at the same stage, 2-1 to Lewis Parnham (Stroud).

Steven Hughes missed out on the last-eight on the head-to-head rule. Oliver Sykes, Ryan Hughes and Charlie Pringle also made group-stage exits.