Gary Locke backs McCallum to break his Hearts duck

Paul McCallum battles for the ball with Kilmarnock's Craig Slater

Paul McCallum battles for the ball with Kilmarnock's Craig Slater

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Gary Locke today backed Paul McCallum to get off the mark soon and provide Hearts with a regular supply of goals in the closing months of the season.

The 20-year-old forward has failed to score in his first five matches since joining on loan from West Ham United.

However, the Hearts manager believes it is far too early to be making judgments about a young hitman who is still finding his feet in a new environment. Indeed, Locke feels McCallum should already have his first goal after seeing a late header contentiously ruled out for offside when he came on as a second-half sub at Kilmarnock on Saturday.

“Having seen it again, Paul was well onside,” said Locke. “He’s obviously desperate to get his first goal for the club and it was a great header so it’s really frustrating that it didn’t stand.

“Paul’s young, he’s still learning the game. It’s been hard for him, but I thought he did really well against Celtic – he caused them a lot of problems. He came on against Kilmarnock and was unlucky not to score.

“He gives us another option in attack, so hopefully he can add a few goals between now and the end of the season.”

Callum Paterson and Jamie Hamill, who both went off injured against Killie at the weekend, are expected to be fit for the visit of Dundee United a week on Friday.

Locke said: “Hamill trained yesterday, so his knee’s not too bad. Paterson’s got a knock, but with not having a game this weekend, these boys should both be okay by the end of the week.”

Meanwhile, Hearts Under-20s were due to face their Aberdeen counterparts in Peterhead this afternoon.