Craig Levein receives fitness boost from key Hearts duo

Steven Naismith was close to being involved for Hearts against St Johnstone. Pic: SNS
Steven Naismith was close to being involved for Hearts against St Johnstone. Pic: SNS
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Steven Naismith and Don Cowie are both set to return to the Hearts squad for Saturday’s trip to Ross County, while Harry Cochrane also has a chance of being involved.

Naismith sat out Saturday’s Scottish Cup fifth-round victory over St Johnstone with a minor hamstring strain sustained in the Premiership match against the same opponents a week previously, while Cowie missed both matches against Saints due to a similar problem. Both players will be available for the trip to Dingwall and they could be joined by Cochrane, who has been sidelined for the last two games with a neck injury he suffered after coming off worst in the well-documented challenge with Celtic captain Scott Brown a fortnight ago.

Hearts' Don Cowie has been suffering from a hamstring issue. Pic: SNS

Hearts' Don Cowie has been suffering from a hamstring issue. Pic: SNS

“Cowie and Naismith will be back on Saturday,” confirmed Hearts manager Craig Levein. “I was toying with the idea of playing Naismith against St Johnstone, but he had a tight hamstring after the previous week’s match and he felt it was still lingering so I was a wee bit wary of playing him.

“The last thing I could have afforded was for him to be out for six or eight weeks so we decided to leave him out in order to enable him to be 100 per cent fit for Saturday. We’ll definitely have Don back as well. I’m hoping Harry will be back. He might not be, but I hope he will be.”

Levein made four changes on Saturday to the side that had started the win over Saints a week previously. Aside from the injured Naismith, David Milinkovic was the most notable omission, with the on-form French-Serbian winger joined by Danny Amankwaa and Connor Randall in dropping to the bench as the manager set about freshening up his team.

Milinkovic, with three goals in his last four matches, is likely to be back in the starting XI in Dingwall.

Craig Levein hopes to have more players available for Saturday's trip to Dingwall. Pic: SNS

Craig Levein hopes to have more players available for Saturday's trip to Dingwall. Pic: SNS

“I was conscious of the fact St Johnstone had played (against Motherwell) last Tuesday and I just felt I wanted quite a bit of freshness in the team to take advantage of that,” said Levein.

“That was why I made the changes.

“Amankwaa’s not up to speed yet – I think he’s going to have to do a lot of fitness work. David has played a lot of football recently.

“After scoring the winner the previous week, he wasn’t happy that he wasn’t involved on Saturday, but he’ll play this Saturday.”