AFTER the disappointment of losing in the dying minutes at Ross County on Saturday, Hearts manager Gary Locke tempered the blow today by announcing that midfielder Ryan Stevenson should be back playing in a couple of weeks.
The 29-year-old did a light warm-up prior to kick-off at Victoria Park as he steps up his recovery from a torn medial ligament in his knee. Provided he suffers no reaction in training between now and then, he could return to take a place on the substitutes’ bench against St Mirren a week on Saturday.
The Hearts medical staff are conscious not to rush Stevenson back, although the player himself is eager to return since having the brace removed from his leg. He suffered the injury in the Edinburgh derby against Hibs on August 11 and has not played since.
“Ryan is back kicking a ball again, so hopefully we’ll see him back in a Hearts shirt in the next couple of weeks,” Locke told the Evening News. “There isn’t a specific game pinpointed for him to make a comeback at the moment. It all depends on how he responds to the training every day.
“If he does running and he doesn’t get any reaction, then he’ll do more running. Then he’ll start twisting and turning and then he’ll start joining in with the rest of the boys. We’re hoping to have Ryan back shortly because there is obviously a lack of experience in the team. The more experience we can get into the team, the better.”
Locke refused to use inexperience as an excuse for Hearts’ 2-1 defeat in Dingwall. Callum Paterson’s goal had the visitors leading 1-0 with two minutes remaining, before headers by Melvin de Leeuw and Richard Brittain turned the result on its head.
“At 1-0 we looked really comfortable and I couldn’t see them scoring,” said Locke. “Two crosses weren’t defended and it cost us. When you get to the last kick, we need to defend better than that. We’re a young team and the heads are down but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.
“I’m not going to use youthfulness as an excuse. We let crosses come into our box too easy and then didn’t defend them. We had chances to kill the game.”