Ryan Stevenson out to prove fitness for Hearts

Ryan Stevenson. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
Ryan Stevenson. 'Picture: Neil Hanna
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RYAN STEVENSON was today aiming to come through unscathed from his first training session this week and take a major step towards proving his fitness for Hearts’ visit to Dundee United.

The forward has a hamstring complaint and was ordered to rest by Hearts’ medical staff after the injury forced him off in last weekend’s Scottish Cup defeat by Celtic. He has not trained all week in the hope that the break would help cure the problem.

Stevenson was due to resume training with Hearts at Riccarton this morning, with manager Gary Locke and his backroom team eager to see how he responds. If he can come through sessions today and tomorrow without any reaction from the hamstring, he will take his place in the squad for Saturday’s trip to Tayside.

Locke is desperate to have Stevenson available given his lack of experienced options in attack, but will not take any risk with the 29-year-old if he is not fully fit. The manager has already lost midfielder Jason Holt until after the festive period due to a broken metatarsal, whilst reserve goalkeeper Mark Ridgers will undergo surgery on a knee problem.

The next 24 hours are crucial to Stevenson’s chances. His hamstring problem has been ongoing for some time, but his experience is vital within Hearts’ young and threadbare squad. He is the club’s joint second-top goalscorer this season with three goals.

Should he fail to declare himself fit, Callum Paterson is certain to be asked to play as a central striker against Dundee United. Jack Hamilton, Hearts’ 19-year-old third-choice goalkeeper, will take Ridgers’ place amongst the substitutes.