Snooker: Carter makes an impressive start

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ALI CARTER'S Wembley dream was looking likely to become reality after an encouraging first session in the Benson & Hedges Championship final in Malvern yesterday.

Carter, the pre-match favourite, took a 5-2 lead over the Yorkshireman, Simon Bedford, at the Willie Thorne Snooker Club, and the 20-year-old from Tiptree needed to win only four of the remaining 10 frames to capture the first professional title of his brief career.

Victory for Carter would earn a pounds 5,000 prize plus a first-round date with the six-times world champion Steve Davis at the B&H Masters next February. He would be assured of another pounds 10,000 for clinching a Wembley debut with the chance to play for the trophy and a pounds 160,000 first prize.

Carter started yesterday's opening session in fine shape and only briefly did Bedford show the form that brought him through seven previous rounds.

The Bradford player looked jaded after his 6-4 semi-final success over Gary Ponting, a match that did not finish until nearly midnight on Tuesday after a four-hour tussle. Bedford, whose ambition before he arrived in Malvern was to win enough money to cover his travel costs, said: "I was feeling so nervous in that last frame I could hardly hold the cue."

He did have the satisfaction of a century break yesterday - his third of the 12-day tournament - plus a half-century in the closing frame of the afternoon, but it was not enough to shake Carter out of his excellent rhythm.

Last month's Grand Prix semi-finalist started with a break of 54 and added further runs of 94, 42, 42 and 72 in an impressive display.