LIAM Highfield rued a lack of consistency and a bad day at the office after crashing out of the Northern Ireland Open at the opening hurdle, writes WILL JENNINGS.

Highfield was Barry Pinches’ first victim of the season as the world No.76 got his campaign up and running with a 4-2 victory over the Swindon-born potter.

The world No.60, who reached the third and second rounds of the European Masters and English Open this season, made a fourth frame break of 104 but lamented his inability to string together a run of consistent frames in Milton Keynes.

“My performance was poor today. I’ve been winning quite a few matches and was expecting better of myself, but sometimes you have one bad day at the office and unfortunately that was today for me,” said Highfield.

“I just wasn’t constantly putting it together frame after frame – you’d rather play three decent frames than make a century in one visit. I missed so many straightforward pots today.

“I feel good – I’ve had quite a few wins this season and am up towards the top 40 on the provisional list.

“I think it’s just a bad day but it gives me more time to prepare for the UK Championship properly.”

Evergreen Pinches, who reached the 2003 UK Championship quarter-finals, raced into a two-frame lead but was pegged back by Highfield after that fluent fourth frame century.

But the 50-year-old held his nerve to down the player from the Stoke-based player and claim his maiden win since the World Championship qualifiers in July.

Highfield will now turn his attention to the prestigious UK Championship, one of snooker’s Triple Crown events that will this year be played in Milton Keynes rather than its traditional York venue.

And the 2017 Indian Open quarter-finalist, an avid runner away from the baize who was due to take part in this year’s Liverpool Marathon before it was cancelled, reckons his premature defeat can help maximise his performance next week.

“I’ll just try and get some practice in over the next week.

“I’ve been so back and forth to Milton Keynes so will just recoup, re-practice then go back down for a fresh tournament,” said the 29-year-old.