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Hockey: Battling Whitchurch in European heartache; Whitchurch Hockey round-up.

WHITCHURCH Hockey Club's Milan mission in the European Club Challenge ended in disappointment.

The Slazenger EHL outfit lost a narrow third game against host club Cernuscoto leave them in thirdplace in their pool and fifth spot in the overall competition.

Whitchurch had opened the tournament with a fighting 3-3 draw against Belarussian champions Stroitel Brest with goals from Joe Naughalty, Laith El Khatib and Jon Collis and a fine display in goal from skipper Iwan Williams.

A hat-trick from Collis and goals from Naughalty and Doug Young gave Whitchurch an impressive 5-1 win against Denmark's Orient Lyngby in their second match and took Whitchurch to the top of their pool.

A draw against the host team would see Whitchurch into the promotion play-offs.

But Italian side Cernusco, who needed to win to progress, were in confident mood, opening the scoring in open play after six minutes and moving into a 2-0 half-time lead from their fourth penalty corner after 22 minutes.

Whitchurch opened the second period in determined fashion, dominating the play with fast attacking hockey and forcing several penalty corners without success.

Whitchurch gained a deserved breakthrough midway through the half, El Khatib coolly converting a penalty flick after Naughalty had been fouled in the circle.

In a nail-biting finish to an exhilarating match, Naughalty crashed home the Whitchurch equaliser from a pass by El Khatib with just four minutes remaining.

But Whitchurch's joy was short-lived as Cernusco desperately surged forward and netted the winner from a deflected free hit just two minutes later.

Despite their exertions in Italy and during a topsy-turvy season in the EHL, Whitchurch's season is far from over.

They play Cardiff & Uwic in an eagerly-awaited Welsh Cup semi-final this Saturday at the Wales Institute of Sport in Sophia Gardens (4.30pm).

The winners will progress to a final meeting with either Swansea Bay or Cardiff University the following day (WIS, 1.30pm).

And the following weekend Whitchurch will make the short journey down the M4 to the European qualifying tournament in Swansea.

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HITTING OUT: Whitchurch's Laith El Khatib was in good form in Milan
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 14, 2008
Words:352
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