Hearts duo nearing return to first-team action

Dale Carrick and Callum Paterson, below, are battling back to fitness. Pic: Ian Georgeson

Dale Carrick and Callum Paterson, below, are battling back to fitness. Pic: Ian Georgeson

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DALE CARRICK and Callum Paterson are edging nearer first-team returns with Hearts, although Paterson is to be reintroduced gradually after knee surgery.

Head coach Robbie Neilson decided against playing the full-back in Tuesday’s under-20 match with Inverness as a precaution but he is expected to feature before the end of the month.

Carrick could make an appearance against Dumbarton at the Bet Butler Stadium today. He has recovered from a thigh injury and has impressed Neilson in training this week. The 20-year-old forward is pressing for a place amongst the substitutes, as is fit-again Soufian El Hassnaoui. The Dutch-Moroccan hopes to make his Hearts debut at some point this afternoon.

First-choice goalkeeper Neil Alexander has also recovered from a cheekbone injury sustained against Rangers at Ibrox in the opening game of the season. He is likely to be back in goal, with Jack Hamilton dropping to the bench. Scott Gallacher remains out injured but his ankle injury is improving and he should be back in training before the month is out.

“Neil is back fit so I need to make a decision on the goalkeepers,” Neilson told the Evening News today.

“Callum didn’t play for the under-20s on Tuesday because we’ve decided to put him back in gradually. Everyone else is fine. Scott Gallacher still has a problem with his ankle but he’ll be a week to ten days and then be back in training. Carrick is back and doing well. I’m really pleased with him.”