THE highest break of Billy Castle’s professional career was not enough for the Marchwood potter to topple 2006 world champion Graeme Dott in the Welsh Open first round at Celtic Manor.

Castle reeled off a 130 in the fifth frame to narrow the gap to 3-2 but Dott responded with a century of his own to consign the 28-year-old to another early exit in a frustrating campaign.

The world number 106 remains yet to clear the first hurdle in a ranking tournament this season but has not let his poor run of results banish his ambitions of a maiden Crucible appearance in April.

“I’m pleased with my performance, I just need a win to turn things around,” Castle said.

“I’ve been putting in so much hard work and I played well – but Graeme did too. He’s been a world champion and people forget what a good player he is.

“The sixth frame was a big one at 3-2 down – he went for a long red, missed it and fluked match ball.

“Those things are always going against me at the minute, which happens when you are on a bad run.

“I have two tournaments left to try and salvage something and I don’t see why I can’t get a few good results before the World Championship.

“My target is to qualify for the Crucible and keep my two-year card. That’s the plan.”

The Gibraltar Open in early March represents Castle’s next chance for a change in fortunes and his record break has given him reason to be cheerful.

“The 130 gave me confidence,” he said. “I was 20 up in the next frame, too, and hit a blue well but it stayed out.

“I changed my cue about three weeks ago and I’m really happy with it, so I’ll do some hard practice before the Gibraltar Open and keep going.

“Some things off the table have been difficult this year so it’s been hard to put the hours in at practice.

“But I’m in good spirits, I feel good and I need a win. I don’t care how it comes – as long as it does.”

Watch the Welsh Open live on Eurosport and Eurosport app.