Hearts plan to rotate their squad over Christmas as they enter a crucial period of three games in eight days starting this weekend.
The Edinburgh club face Alloa at Tynecastle on Saturday, Cowdenbeath away next Tuesday and Livingston away the following Saturday, with head coach Robbie Neilson preparing to utilise his full squad.
Dale Carrick, Jason Holt and Sam Nicholson have all recovered from injury and are expected to feature against Alloa. Neilson then expects to make changes for the trip to Cowdenbeath before taking his team to West Lothian.
It is a vital period for Hearts’ aspirations of winning the Championship, and Neilson is determined not to overuse any of his players with half a season remaining. He has managed his team sensibly to date, helping them construct a nine-point gap at the top after 15 matches. That lead could be increased to 12 by Christmas if they beat both Alloa and Cowdenbeath.
Saturday’s trip to Central Park was postponed due to a frozen pitch, and Hearts are now preparing for three games before meeting Hibs on January 3.
“If the Cowdenbeath game had gone ahead, we would just have been Saturday, Saturday, Saturday right through Christmas and New Year,” said Neilson. “Sometimes, when Christmas falls at a weekend, you end up playing quite a few games round about that time. This year it’s not too bad, although we now have the Cowdenbeath game to deal with in between the Saturday games.
“Carrick, Holt and Nicholson will all be in full training this week so hopefully they will get part of the game on Saturday to get them back involved again. It gives us a chance to maybe rotate the squad a wee bit as well.”