May 16 2011

Dubnica 1-0 Žilina

Published by at 12:35 pm under Domestic and tagged: , ,

The prospect of a trip to Dubnica is not exciting exactly but it’s certainly agreeable. The journey is easy, there are a couple of decent pubs, including one right next to the ground, tickets are cheap and entitle you to sit wherever you want, the stewards and staff are amiable, the home fans are happy to chat and, since the club emphasises the development of its own young talent, the football is usually watchable.

The problem was that I had something of a mental conflict going into Žilina’s game there on Saturday. Who did I want to win? I support Žilina and their last-gasp winner at home to Prešov in midweek had maintained hopes that a second-placed finish to the season might not be beyond them. Three more points would have sustained the challenge to Senica. But I also like Dubnica and an away win would have all but ended the home side’s prospects of playing Corgoň Liga football next season. Four points adrift of safety and facing a visit to champions-elect Slovan Bratislava in their next (last but one) fixture, Dubnica desperately needed a victory from this one. I did know that, since a draw would be no use to either side, I wanted one of them to claim the three points.

Both Dubnica and Žilina have had disappointing springs. Of all the Corgoň Liga clubs, Dubnica made some of the most interesting signings of the winter, bringing in three vastly experienced players (Pavol Kováč, Jan Trousil and Tomáš Polách) as well as one of Slovakia’s most promising talents (Marek Kuzma). One effect has been to ensure that the team is always competitive. With goalkeeper Kováč and central-defender Trousil organising things at the back, five clean sheets were kept in the first eight games following the break and the side’s tendency to subside when things go against them has been eradicated. Polách, full of energy, purpose and neat passing is as good an example as I’ve seen for a while of the kind of short, bald midfield general that used to be all the rage, while Kuzma has brought touch and technique to the forward line. The problem is that there is still nobody to score goals on a consistent basis. Six strikes in twelve games, just one of which was won (1-0, of course), going into the Žilina fixture tells you why Dubnica have continued to occupy bottom place since the season resumed in late February.

Žilina, meanwhile, have seen a six-point lead at the top of the table transformed into a six-point deficit. There are numerous reasons for this but, for now at least, I wouldn’t look far beyond the lack of goals ; incredibly, they’ve failed to trouble the scorers on more occasions than Dubnica. And, while Dubnica seem to keep missing chances, Žilina have struggled painfully to create them in the first place. So, as with so many of the matches I’ve attended recently, I wasn’t anticipating a high-scoring thriller.

The train journey promised to be interesting, however. Due to reduced interest, the Žilina fan-club has stopped organising coach travel to away games but a hard core of followers will usually make their own way to places like Dubnica. Some go by car but those who like to have a few drinks and generally make a day out of it go by train. We were joined in our carriage by a group of 15 or so, armed with a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label and a linesman’s flag. The whisky, predictably, had been consumed by the time we got to Dubnica, the flag was presumably intended to symbolise the perceived injustices Žilina have been victims of this spring at the hands of officials such as Roman Slyško. There were also three middle-aged women, one of them sporting a Róbert Jež scarf. Žilina seem to have a relatively large female following and these three, clearly hardy travellers, were a veritable fount of knowledge and gossip regarding the state of the club.

Dubnica, of course, was as laid-back as ever. There were a few policemen waiting to greet us at the railway station but the group with the flag, while a bit drunk and loud, clearly needed little more than the odd friendly reminder to keep them in line. Inside the ground, the unexpected appearance of Jež on the touchline – he was giving an interview to Digi Sport – was as exciting as it got for the away following. Dubnica took the lead after four minutes when a neat exchange between Kuzma and Peter Šulek ended with the latter smashing the ball past Martin Dúbravka from an acute angle. They should have gone 2-0 up just before half-time when Ľubomir Guldan was adjudged to have pushed Kuzma over in the box but, as Guldan made his way to the dressing-room, having been shown the red card, Matej Ižvolt saw his penalty saved by Dúbravka.

The second-half was a perfect illustration of the shortcomings of both teams. Žilina passed the ball attractively and, despite being a man short, were on top of Dubnica for long spells. But the only time they really looked like scoring was when Ivan Lietava rattled the bar with a powerful 30-yard shot. The home side, seemingly unsure of how to deal with being a goal and a player to the good, were largely passive but two counter-attacks brought clear chances to wrap the game up. Juraj Vavrík, to the obvious frustration of the home fans around us, missed both of them in fairly pitiful fashion.

Fortunately for Vavrík, the main object of the Dubnica supporters’ anger was referee Michal Smolák. It was hard to see why since he didn’t appear to do an awful lot wrong but, in common (I’m beginning to think) with the fans of pretty much every Corgoň Liga club, the Dubnica regulars feel there’s a conspiracy against their side.They told us that the authorities are determined to see them relegated because promoted Trenčín will not get a licence for their ground next season and will be forced to play home matches at Dubnica. It’s a difficult story to credit for several reasons (for one thing, what’s the problem with two top-flight clubs sharing a ground?) but, sceptical as I most certainly am about many of these conspiracy theories, I do think they partly explain why Corgoň Liga crowds are as low as they are. There were only 985 at Saturday’s game ; when you consider that the weather was nice, tickets cost just 3 Euros, the home team still had a fighting chance of staying up and were facing local rivals, that’s a very poor attendance. But then, if people genuinely believe the title and relegation issues are decided in advance, rather than on the field, there’s no real need for them to go along and watch the games.

There was similar gossip on the train home. Slovan’s first goal at Prešov was a penalty, the woman in the Jež scarf told us. There was speculation about whether it had been dubiously awarded and whether Slovan would have won without it. I was glad to find, on switching on TA3’s evening sports programe, that a more obvious penalty would be difficult to imagine.

Oddly enough, the only team to take a point from Slovan this spring is Dubnica. It’s difficult to imagine them repeating the feat at Pasienky next week, which means they need Košice to lose at Zlaté Moravce to retain a hope of staying up. Always assuming, of course, that the fans have got it wrong and what happens on the pitch will be decisive, as opposed to what goes on in committee rooms, luxury villas, seedy bars or wherever else conspiracies are supposedly hatched.

James Baxter

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Dubnica 1-0 Žilina”

  1.   britskibelasion 17 May 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Really enjoyed this write-up James, got the IBWM re-tweet it deserved, too! The more I hear you talking about Dubnica, the more I fancy a trip there, especially in nice weather conditions!

    Hadn’t realised that about Trencin’s ground, that’s a real pity if they won’t be allowed to play there next season, was already looking forward to visiting what is surely one of the most dramatic grounds in Slovakia. It presumably won’t help their attendances at all if they start playing in Dubnica, very strange.

    We’ll see what happens, there is at least theoretically, still hope for Dubnica!

  2.   James Baxteron 18 May 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Thanks, I don’t think we can be sure that Trencin can’t play at home next season, it might be true but I haven’t read it anywhere. I was only repeating what these Dubnica fans told us, and they were peddling a bit of an agenda!

    It would be a shame indeed as the ground is certainly dramatic – the view down to it from the castle is spectacular as well. Its drawbacks are the artificial pitch and the all-round shabbiness of the place – though that’s part of the charm.

    Have you heard the quote from the DAC keeper? Basically admitted they didn’t want to beat Kosice on Saturday as they’d have been accused of helping Dubnica and he’d got fed up of people asking which team they wanted to help most. Not good.

  3.   britksibelasion 18 May 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Hadn’t heard that. Ufff .. shocking, he could have been more diplomatic about it – like actually realising that even if DAC had beaten Kosice it wouldn’t really make much difference to what Dubnica needed to ensure survival!

    Our Spanish friend Jose-Luis has some absolutely stunning photos from Trencin castle down to the pitch. Just his photos make me tempted to go and take some myself. Some of the best photos I’ve seen from anywhere in European Football.

    Maybe he’ll be tempted to donate one to the blog ;-)

  4.   Estojaon 19 May 2011 at 1:14 am

    Thanks for the compliments Dan :-D
    Of course you can use any of my pictures, help yourself.

    I really hope that Trencin ground will be used next year by the team, it would really be a pity that they go to play to Dubnica.

  5.   James Baxteron 19 May 2011 at 10:53 am


    Don’t despair – as I said, I was only repeating gossip! I hope that ;

    1. Trencin will be allowed to use their ground next season (I don’t like artificial pitches but do see the point of them considering the Slovak weather).

    2. Dubnica stay up, because they are a lovely club and their ground, though not so spectacular, is a nice one to visit.
    Zlate Moravce need to give it their all against Kosice for this to have a chance of happening, though, because Dubnica will get nothing at Slovan.

  6.   britksibelasion 19 May 2011 at 11:57 am

    Otherwise we will have to go with Stary Jazvec and his buddies to Dubnica next season!

  7.   Stary Jazvecon 21 May 2011 at 5:47 pm

    FK Slovan Duslo Šaľa away is one I fancy next season if they stay up.

    Apropos of nothing, anyone watchin Tango Retro on STV3? Hour-long highlights prog, best games from seasons of yore, back when Slovan used to real off title after title and Trnava could never quite fall over the line. Cracking stuff.

  8.   britskibelasion 25 May 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Slovan Duslo Sala? I’m in, especially if they sell scarves :-)

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