Snooker: Prison life puts Reynolds on right track

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DEAN REYNOLDS ground out a hard-fought 10-5 victory over Joe Johnson in Telford last night to keep alive his dream of returning to the Crucible Theatre. Reynolds was engaged for eight hours, 13 minutes before slotting the pink into a distant baulk pocket to see off the stubborn challenge of the former world champion in the last 64 of the Embassy Championship.

Now Reynolds, only released from a drink-driving jail sentence a fortnight ago, tackles the fellow left-hander Jimmy White, with an appearance in the televised phase the prize.

The 36-year-old professional from Grimsby, only allowed to compete in the game's blue riband event after receiving special dispensation from the prison authorities, led Johnson 9-5 when their marathon tussle was suspended to allow the next session of matches to begin on time. Frames 13 and 14 took 56 and 49 minutes and the pace of play did not improve on the resumption as Reynolds needed a further 48 minutes to wrap up proceedings.

Reynolds, who was freed from Morton Hall open prison, Lincolnshire, on the proviso that he wore an electronic tag around his ankle and adhered to a seven o'clock house curfew, was understandably delighted.

"Being inside has given me a fresh perspective on life in general and the game," he admitted. "I've always enjoyed my snooker and now I appreciate it even more. In a strange way prison has helped me. I stayed off the drink, lost about a stone in weight and had time to reflect. Maybe that's what I needed."

Looking ahead to his meeting with White, Reynolds said: "Who knows what will happen. I don't think I have got anything to lose."

Hong Kong's Marcus Fu and the Welshman Matthew Stephens secured their places at the Crucible. Fu beat Graeme Dott 10-4 while Stephens overcame Jon Birch 10-6.