If A Tree Falls In A CIS Cup Quarter Final, Does It Make A Sound?

THE DONS comfortably beat opposite-of-a-bogey-team Inverness Caley Thistle 4-1 tonight in the CIS Cup quarter-final.

Barry Nicholson scored a hat-trick, including two first-half penalties, and Lee Miller bagged the other, with Graham Bayne's consolation coming midway through the second half.

Incidentally, that means we have now scored five penalties so far this season. The Pittodrie penalty spot hasn't seen so much action since we beat Celtic 3-2 in 1998.

However, shamefully, the match was played out in front of a pitiful 7270 people.

Yes, a cup quarter-final - 90 minutes from a Hampden semi - and the stadium is a third full.

It is just as well the Scottish Football League rulebook was not penned by Bishop Berkeley, otherwise we may find our game nullified by Rule 16 Subsection 85 (b): Esse est percipi (To be is to be perceived).

Otherwise known as the age-old philosophical question: if a game is played in front of a tiny crowd, does its scoreline stand?

Fortunately for us it will, and with the Dons facing either Hearts, Rangers or Dundee United in the next round it gives Aberdeen a chance at their first silverware in 12 years.

It also has taken the team further in a cup competition than at any other time in Calderwood's managership. In fact, the club hasn't been as far as a cup semi-final for eight seasons.

Yet he will presumably be shaking his head at the attendance, and the club must surely be alarmed.

So why the paltry gate? This is surely the best chance AFC have at silverware, with the league and UEFA Cup out of reach, and our Scottish Cup record abysmal for the last 17 years.

It may be that the UEFA Cup games have taken priority. Certainly we have had a congested fixture list recently.

And of course the CIS Cup, despite it's League Cup heritage, has taken a bashing in recent years - a meaningless competition since the UEFA place was taken away, Diddy Cup, etc, etc.

But the underlying problem is not the cup. It is the prices. And it is about time the clubs banded together and sorted this out. And here's a few ideas.

Firstly, season tickets should be valid for these games, and to ensure that money still filters to the smaller teams in the competition, some sort of compensation should be organised to equate to around half a reasonable gate receipt.

Secondly, kids should be let in for free if they are with a parent. And thirdly, there should be 'cheap seats' - a stand given over to £5 seats.

But this will cost the clubs, the money-men cry. However, plenty other businesses have a 'loss-leader', and the CIS Cup should be that for the SPL clubs. They may get new fans coming along, particularly youngsters who are the future of the club and currently run around in Chelsea, Real Madrid and Man U tops.

Even if these ideas turn out to be unworkable, something has to be done or a historic tournament will have to be scrapped completely.

Still, tonight's low turnout may have had some advantages.

Missing out on tonight's game will presumably be those who still do not recognise the efforts of our best midfielder in the last two years Barry Nicholson, because he 'wiz a Hun'. A hat-trick's a hat-trick, even if two of the goals were (well-taken) pens.

And hopefully the Lee Miller-bashers will have stayed at home while he opportunistically tucked the ball home to make the game safe by half time.

That goal makes him out top scorer this season - if only he could add goals to his game...

Stand Free Ed