Dowie the saviour as Victory break their finals drought
The English striker stood tall and delivered for the hosts in a very Big Blue.
Billed to be one of the matches of the Westfield W-League 2018/19 season, the 2-2 draw that unfolded at Lakeside Stadium was one to remember.
Missed penalties, unbelievable strikes, heated clashes, late controversy; this late-season contest had everything.
REPORT: Late Dowie strike sends Victory top in spectacular Big Blue
MATCH CENTRE: Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
So when the hosts were down 2-1 having already come from behind once, who else but Melbourne’s captain could level the scores inside the final 15 minutes.
Wheeling past her direct opponent before sending a right-footed shot across Trudy Burke, Natasha Dowie took off toward her teammates before the ball had even nestled in the net.
It was Dowie’s ninth goal in 10 matches this season, however this particular one carried extra significance for both the 30-year-old and her side.
It is the strike that sends Victory into the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Finals Series, their first finals appearance since 2014.
Dowie arrived in Melbourne the following season in 2015, looking to find silverware with a side that had just missed out on the Westfield W-League Final the season prior.
However it was their new cross-town rivals who found success, Melbourne City completing an historic three-peat of Westfield W-League Championships over the following three seasons.
The only prizes the Victory managed to nab in the same timespan were wooden spoons in 2015/16 and 2016/17. The following Westfield W-League 2017/18 season yielded a similarly poor seventh-place finish.
And through all of this, Natasha Dowie remained.
Determined throughout to push her team back into Westfield W-League Championship contention, Sunday Night’s goal and performance mean so much more for the talisman than anyone else.
Attempting to captain her side to their first finals appearance under her reign, Dowie’s heart would have suffered serious palpitations as Melbourne seesawed throughout the contest.
It began when Victory conceded a penalty, before Casey Dumont saved it.
It continued when the home side trailed after Alana Kennedy’s strike before Emily Gielnik replied with aplomb.
Then Sydney scored again and with less than 20 minutes remaining, Melbourne’s chances of fighting back appeared to be withering.
But Natasha Dowie is a fighter, her equaliser epitomising the attitude that now sees Victory top of the ladder with a match in hand heading into the 14th and final round of the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Season.
A showdown away against Sam Kerr’s Perth Glory awaits Melbourne. A win would secure the Premiers Plate.
Any other result, and Dowie’s side would have another chance to secure the silverware in Canberra the following week.
Irrespective of the outcome, the captain can hold her head high knowing she has led this team out of the wilderness, turning them into genuine contenders for the Westfield W-League 2018/19 Championship.