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Late penalty gives Canberra United W-League top spot after win over Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory forward Natasha Dowie says W-League referees aren’t up to scratch. Photo: Penny Stephens Samantha Johnson of Melbourne Victory and Michelle Heyman of Canberra United collide. Photo: Darrian Traynor
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Canberra United coach Rae Dower says it’s unlikely Matildas striker Michelle Heyman will be fit for their away trip to Sydney FC after she was stretchered off in their last-gasp win.

Melbourne Victory striker Natasha Dowie blasted the standard of W-league refereeing after a controversial penalty cost them a point against high-flying United.

United winger Ashleigh Sykes calmly put the penalty away for a 2-1 victory at AAMI Park on Wednesday, after a Hayley Raso shot struck the arm of Victory captain Christine Nairn in the 87th minute – although Nairn had little chance to get her arm out of the way.

Heyman will get scans of her ankle on Thursday or Friday, but a positive for Canberra is Lisa De Vanna’s clearance is expected to go through in the “next 24 hours”.

“It’s too early to tell until we send her off for scans tomorrow. It’s a pretty bad ankle at the moment, fingers crossed it’s nothing more than a bad sprain,” Dower said.

“I’d say it’s very unlikely she’ll be available next game given we’ve got three games in 11 days. Highly unlikely she’ll be ready in four days time.”

While Dower wasn’t impressed with her team’s scrappy performance, she was impressed with the way they fought back from a goal down without their captain.

Heyman lasted just 13 minutes before she landed awkwardly and rolled her ankle, with the trainer immediately calling for the stretcher.

Victory went ahead when Dowie capitalised on a loose ball to slot it away in the corner.

She terrorised Canberra’s defence for the first 50 minutes and should have had at least one more goal to her credit.

Her opener came against the run of play, pouncing on a loose ball and slotting nicely into the corner of Trudy Burke’s goal.

Canberra’s young star Nicky Flannery lashed home an equaliser early in the second half after Melbourne failed to clear a Hannah Brewer cross.

Then Sykes stepped up to claim the win from the penalty spot.

But Dowie felt her team deserved at least a point and blasted the standard of refereeing after the game.

She wasn’t happy about Victory not getting a penalty of their own when she appeared to be pulled back by Canberra defender Clare Hunt.

“I am absolutely gutted to be honest. The league is never going to improve with this refereeing,” the England striker told the ABC.

“We don’t deserve to have got nothing out of that game and it’s simple, basic refereeing, so if this league’s ever going to kick on it needs to be changed massively.”

The result sends Canberra back to the top of the W-League and leaves Melbourne winless near the bottom of the ladder.

Victory travels to Brisbane to face the Roar on New Year’s Day, while Canberra plays Sydney FC two days later.

AT A GLANCE

Canberra United 2 (Nicky Flannery 53, Ashleigh Sykes 89) bt Melbourne Victory 1 (Natasha Dowie 30) at AAMI Park.