MARK RIDGERS is expected to play from the start for Hearts against Wolfsburg tomorrow night. The 23-year-old will deputise for first-choice goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, who has a minor hamstring complaint.
The rare opportunity will give Ridgers a chance to showcase his credentials for more regular first-team exposure. Billy Brown, the Hearts assistant manager, acclaimed Ridgers’ progress by declaring he is ready to play at senior level.
To date, he has started only one competitive match for Hearts – a 2-0 win against St Johnstone in May 2012. Brown stressed that only MacDonald’s excellent form has prevented Ridgers from getting more chances in the first team.
“Mark will probably get a run tomorrow night. Jamie is feeling his hamstring a wee bit and he’s played in all the games, so Mark will possibly start the game,” Brown told the Evening News.
“I don’t think at the minute that Mark will be knocking on the manager’s door asking why he’s not in the team. The reason he isn’t in the team is because Jamie MacDonald has been outstanding.
“When Mark came on at Raith Rovers in the League Cup earlier this season, he did really well. If Jamie got injured right now, there would be no problem putting Mark into the team.
“He’s ready to be a first-team goalkeeper, so we’ve no worries about that. I think the supporters will get a chance to see him against Wolfsburg.”
Other younger players like Sam Nicholson and Gary Oliver are also likely to get game time in the friendly, which is intended to raise funds for Hearts.
“All the younger ones will be in the pool and we’d like to give as many young boys a chance as we can, but let’s bear in mind who we’re playing,” stressed Brown.
Brown and Gary Locke, the Hearts manager, have decisions to make in both full-back areas, with Jordan McGhee and Kevin McHattie on international duty with Scotland Under-21s. Brad McKay will most likely play in central defence, with Dylan McGowan shifting to right-back.
“The full-back positions are a wee problem because both our full-backs are away with Scotland Under-21s, Jordan McGhee and Kevin McHattie,” said Brown. “We’ll need to think about what we’re going to do there.
“The problem is we also have an under-20 game tonight. It’s difficult to say we’re going to play young players against Wolfsburg because we play young players every week. We will make a decision on who plays tomorrow.”