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Hoolahan finally gives Jets marquee touch

His first touch and last were forgettable but Newcastle marquee man Wes Hoolahan was a welcomed sight on the pitch for Jets fans in their A-League draw with Melbourne Victory on Saturday.

Hoolahan, capped 43 times for his country and nicknamed 'The Irish Messi', was the Jets' biggest signing in a season marred by budget cuts because of owner Martin Lee's financial setbacks in China.

But Hoolahan had been sidelined since September because of an ankle injury in an FFA Cup loss to Adelaide.

In his absence, the Jets have endured another disappointing campaign near the bottom of the ladder, which led to the sacking of coach Ernie Merrick last month.

Hoolahan, a Norwich City legend with 323 appearances, made his long-awaited A-League debut for Newcastle in the 62nd minute of the round 20 game at McDonald Jones Stadium to the cheers of supporters.

The 37-year-old, though, showed signs of rust, hitting his first pass over the head of his target and out of play.

Two minutes later, Hoolahan played a clever ball in the box to Matt Millar, who looked to have earned a penalty when felled.

However, officials waved off cries for a foul.

Veteran playmaker Hoolahan had other highlights as Newcastle found their feet again after Ola Toivonen equalised for Victory in the 49th minute.

The Jets had dominated the first half but had only a Roy O'Donovan goal in the 24th minute to show for it.

One of Hoolahan's last touches, though, was an inexplicable ball to Newcastle coach Carl Robinson on the home bench in stoppage time.

Robinson, in his first home game in charge, could see the funny side of an otherwise positive return for Hoolahan, who is off contract at season's end.

"It was great," Robinson said.

"I enjoyed his one pass where he kicked it out of play, I think everyone laughed.

"I'm really delighted that he's back. It's been a long time for him."

"Credit to him, he's kept himself in very good shape for his age.

"He's an ultimate professional and you saw what he was like when he come on."

Despite the draw, the Jets remained 10th, two points behind the Victory, who are nine points outside the top six with eight games remaining.