FARAKH AJAIB is a man for the big occasion and can’t wait for the return of crowds on a globetrotting World Snooker Tour.

The Accrington potter, who was born in Blackburn, slipped to a 4-1 defeat against amateur Patrick Wallace in the first round of the Northern Ireland Open on his maiden year on the professional circuit.

It’s been a far from conventional introduction for the world No.116, who has been forced to adapt to all events being held at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena and an absence of crowds owing to Covid-19.

The former butcher resents the tedium of behind closed doors snooker and reckons an injection of atmosphere can fire him to glory.

“It’s the Milton Keynes Open!” the 29-year-old joked.

“It’s fine and I don’t mind – it’s okay and I’d rather be on Tour than be working. I’m hoping there’ll be crowds because that’s what I thrive on.

“Here sometimes, it can get a bit flat thinking what you’re playing for. But it’s still good.

“It was a battle]. I should have won the first two frames and he nicked them both, then he made a century in the third and I was almost down and out.

“Then he potted frame ball and went in off, so I had a chance, but he nicked it on the pink in the end.”

Wallace prevailed after a scrappy encounter under the Marshall Arena lights as his third frame break of 116 was the only visit of note.

The result inflicted more disappointment on Ajaib, who has endured a mixed run of form since clinching his two-year Tour card and also slumped to a first round defeat at the European Masters.

He beat Rod Lawler in his first round match at last month’s English Open, however, reaching the last 64 before surrendering a 3-0 lead against Zhou Yuelong to lose 4-3.

And he followed that up with a disappointing 5-0 defeat against Louis Heathcote in German Masters qualifying as he now gears up for a busy period of the season.

The Lancashire player’s result against Zhou told the story of his campaign and Ajaib says he’s longing for the consistency that can catapult him up the rankings.

“I’m just trying to find my feet at the minute,” he added.

“I’m very inconsistent. Sometimes I play well and sometimes I struggle, like today. I’ll see how it goes.”

* Watch the Northern Ireland Open live on Eurosport, Eurosport app, and stream on discovery+