McCulloch falls behind in Preston


Ian McCulloch has his work cut out tonight if he is to turn his dream of a home win at the £400,000 Totesport Grand Prix into reality.

The Preston potter resumes at 8pm trailing world champion and world number one Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-2 after the first session of their Guild Hall final.

And that leaves favourite O'Sullivan requiring four of the remaining 10 frames to pocket a £60,000 first prize and to land the only major title missing from his collection.

McCulloch, the world number 17, at least gave himself a chance by taking the final frame of the afternoon. He did so with his best break of the contest so far. But his 54 did not come easy after 28-year-old O'Sullivan messed up a safety shot.

However, he finally obtained a concession to give himself and his supporters a badly needed lift. O'Sullivan, appearing in only his second Grand Prix final, is chasing a 16th ranking tournament victory. And that would give him one more than Mark Williams and John Higgins though he has a long way to go before overhauling Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis-one and two in the list.

In contrast, McCulloch, 33, is contesting just the second major final of his career. He lost to Paul Hunter - O'Sullivan's semi-final victim on Saturday night - in the 2002 British Open.

However, five wins, including successes over Hendry and Jimmy White, suggested he might be able to go one better. McCulloch needed to make a good start and he did not get one. O'Sullivan, unbeaten in 10 consecutive ranking event matches, won the opening frame with a run of 86.

He doubled his advantage in frame two before McCulloch allowed his opponent just one point in taking the third. O'Sullivan's response was to fire in breaks of 104 and 72 to move 4-1 clear.

He also shaded a tactical sixth frame to pass the halfway mark towards his victory target. McCulloch, a 6-1 semi-final winner over Irishman Michael Judge, badly needed to stop the rot. He was in trouble from some pin point accurate safety shots before O'Sullivan made the crucial error that let McCulloch in for an invaluable half-century.