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A woman was assaulted and spat on in Carlton on Wednesday afternoon in an unprovoked attack, sparking a police appeal for witnesses.

The woman, 28, had walked through Carlton Gardens and was waiting at the pedestrian lights at the intersection of Grattan Street and Rathdowne Street about 4.50pm when the incident happened.

A man unknown to the victim shouted at her from behind and punched her in the back of the shoulder, forcing her forward into a pole.

The victim turned around and the man then spat in her face, before quickly walking away into Carlton Gardens.

He is believed to be about 40 years old with a thin build, olive complexion, short dark brown hair, stubble, and a pointy nose. He is missing a few front teeth.

At the time of the assault, he was wearing a loose grey T-shirt and dark tracksuit pants.

Police are particularly keen to hear from two people who approached the victim to ask if she was all right.

Anyone with information is asked to phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.