Arnaud Djoum in the frame for first Hearts start

Arnaud Djoum has 'made just one substitute appearance for Hearts
Arnaud Djoum has 'made just one substitute appearance for Hearts
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ARNAUD DJOUM is pressing for his first Hearts start against Ross County this Saturday after making a positive impression in his first month at Tynecastle.

The Belgian midfielder has been a substitute in each of his new club’s four matches since he signed a short-term deal until January four weeks ago.

The 26-year-old has played only once – a ten-minute outing away to Celtic – for Hearts so far, but has been building up his match fitness by playing for the club’s Under-20s in recent weeks.

With Miguel Pallardo likely to be rested after taking a blow to his calf in Sunday’s victory away to Dundee United, Djoum, who was in the frame to start at Tannadice, is prominent in head coach Robbie Neilson’s thoughts ahead of Saturday’s Tynecastle showdown with fourth-place County.

“Djoum’s doing really well,” Neilson told the Evening News. “I was really close to starting him at Tannadice but I decided to go with something slightly different. He was unlucky not to play on Sunday. He’s impressed me in training and in the Under-20s. He’s a good player and a good type. Once he gets in there and starts playing, he’ll be a good asset for us.”

Both Pallardo and Juwon Oshaniwa are expected to sit out this weekend’s match as a result of the injuries they sustained at Tannadice. The key duo limped off simultaneously in the 71st minute with calf and hamstring problems respectively. They were both scanned on Monday and, although neither injury is serious, they are unlikely to start against County.

Callum Paterson will be available after suspension although Gavin Reilly will sit out the second match of a two-game ban following his red card against Kilmarnock earlier this month. Captain Alim Ozturk is still sidelined following a hernia operation, while Soufian El Hassnaoui is not yet ready to feature for the first team despite having recovered from knee ligament damage.