REPLACING Charlie Dickens was probably not among the Great Expectations cameraman-turned-saviour Rich Widdowson had for City’s trip to Tividale.

A little more than 80 minutes had been played when the action stopped with City a goal to the good in the Midland Football League Cup third round.

READ MORE | Reaction - Tividale 0 City 1

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Most of the 115-strong crowd was baffled by the prospect of a little fog causing a halt to proceedings but it turned out injured referee Dickens simply could not go on.

Poised to keep filming, qualified match official and superfan Widdowson’s phone rang with the request that had threatened to come for years – step up or the game is off.

As City debuts go it was as influential as any player could wish for, a 1-0 victory seen through to bag a place in the last eight with the carrot of a final at Walsall now dangling.

“The phone rang and I wouldn’t normally answer it during the game but Jack Hundley, who helps with our social media, said it was clear one of the officials had to come off,” said Widdowson.

“We needed someone to take over otherwise the game would have been off.

“I asked if he was sure, I didn’t want to run halfway across the pitch to get sent back but the assistant who took over gave me my instructions and that was it really.

“I nearly got called on earlier in the season but that time they had someone who had a kit with him.

“There was another time a few years ago as well but this was the first time I actually went on.

“It was good to have a go at it for 10 minutes but it makes you realise how difficult the job is, being out there instead of filming or watching opens your eyes.

“I paid my fiver to get in, filmed the game and ended up on the line – not many people can say that.”

The tongue-in-cheek stick from the sidelines, particularly from the City faithful, was inevitably relentless.

“Fortunately I didn’t really have anything to do,” said Widdowson.

“I gave three decisions and they were all to Tividale so no one could say I wasn’t fair – the only ones that said anything were our players but it was all well natured.”

And if City do progress to a battle at the Banks’s, the ever-ready ref will be on hand to help again if required.

“I will have a kit on underneath and be ready,” said Widdowson with a smile.

It was a good job he retained that sense of humour because long-time friend and City chairman Steve Goode was never likely to let the opportunity pass.

“I drove Rich to the game and my worry now is whether he will get cramp in the back of the car,” said Goode.

“The only major decision he had to make was a ball he viewed as out of play but not even half of it had gone out. The club will be making a small donation to get him some new glasses!”