'An eye opener!' Young referee plucked from crowd to officiate Boston United's National League contest with Gateshead enjoys first taste of elite football

Craig Forbes determined to reach step two - and higher - level after bizarre debut

Young referee Craig Forbes admitted it was an 'eye opener' when he was plucked from the crowd to run the line as Boston United entertained National League North leaders Gateshead on Saturday.

But after getting a taste of step two football the 21-year-old is more determined than ever to fulfil his ambition of becoming a regular whistleblower in elite football.

Forbes arrived at the Jakemans Community Stadium as a spectator, but was thrust into action after assistant Stuart Richardson pulled up with a calf injury.

With no fourth official at National League North level, an appeal was put out on the public address system.

Forbes - who referees ay Lincolnshire League level and runs the line in the United Counties League - answered the call to step in in front of more than 1,500 spectators, including Sir Chris Witty and Sir Jonathan Van Tam.

"It was a shock really. I was there as a general fan watching a game of football when they put out a message," said the level five referee.

"I had an impression they were going to put out a request for a linesman.

Craig Forbes was plucked from the crowd to run the line as Boston United hosted Gateshead. Photo: Oliver Atkin

"I spoke to the match referee and it was decided between both managers that I'd be able to go on."

Referee Matt Corlett sent both sides back to their dressing rooms while Forbes was handed spare kit and warmed up.

"It was an eye opener to watch from pitchside, to be involved in a National League North game," added Bostonian Forbes, who admitted his 'adrenaline levels were really high' as he ran the line for the final eight minutes of the first half.

The nerves settled in the second 45, after a 'few heckles' and some pals cheekily chanting his name.

Forbes raised his flag late on to rule out a pass which led to United's Scott Pollock netting, a goal that would have brought the hosts level at 2-2.

"I've got to do my job and put my flag up if it's offside," he said.

"It was offside so, as much as the home fans were disappointed, it had to be done."

The final whistle brought a are treat for a referee's assistant, players taking the time to thank him for officiating.

That may be a one off, but Forbes is hoping to be back in black at step two level again one day.

"My phone's been quite busy through as people got to hear about it," he continued.

"Hopefully, one day I get the opportunity to do it again. But it was a lifetime goal I'm going to cherish for some time.

"I've been a huge football fan since I was young. I just wanted to go down that route of officiating as I felt I had the better pathway rather than playing.

"Being with 1,600 fans compared to what I'm used to is some difference."