Kirsty Dowle clapped off pitch by fans after 'one of the best performances by a referee in years'
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FIFA referee Kirsty Dowle was applauded off the pitch after she delivered a "fantastic" performance during Tuesday night's National League clash between Southend United and Oxford City.
The 32-year-old former railway worker, who has been chosen to officiate a number of important fixtures in recent years, including the Women’s FA Cup final, recently committed to refereeing full-time.
So far this season, Dowle has officiated four games in the National League, including Tuesday night's fifth tier tie between Southend and Oxford, where over 6,000 fans witnessed a refereeing masterclass.
In fact, Dowle earned the applause of many supporters in the South Stand as she walked down the tunnel at full-time.
Many took to social media after the game to commend her performance, including Southend Echo reporter Chris Phillips, who witnessed a first at Roots Hall.
He said: "Never heard a referee clapped off the pitch before but that's what happened at Roots Hall tonight as Kirsty Dowle walked back towards the tunnel after the final whistle."
After starting out at grassroots level and working her way up the ladder, Ashford-born Dowie is now part of a development group of match officials through Elite Referee Development Plan.
The Elite Referee Development Plan is a major PGMOL project supported by the Premier League, FA, and EFL to improve the standard and diversity of match officials at the elite levels in English football.
And the Women's Super League referee showcased her talents on Tuesday with a composed outing.
One fan took to Twitter after full-time and wrote: "Best referee this season. Perhaps the best since we came down to the National League," while another commented: "She was fantastic."
A third wrote: "We had her at Maidenhead earlier in the season, very professional and as you say isn’t fooled or takes any shenanigans that teams get up to."
A fourth commented: "Definitely one of the best referees I've seen for a long time and puts most of the Premier league one's to shame. Well done Kirsty Dowie."
A fifth added: "Easily the best ref I’ve seen ever. She will be at the top soon."
Speaking to the BBC about her journey, Dowle said: "At six I peaked with making the best decision of my life and started playing football, fell in love with it from the moment I kicked a ball and that was it, that's all it's ever been, all I've known."