Hearts manager Gary Locke has challenged Jason Holt to fight his way back into the first team after overcoming niggling pain from his foot injury.
The midfielder is in contention to face Dundee United on Friday night, four months since he last started a match. Holt suffered a broken metatarsal in training last November and has been hindered in his recovery by discomfort from a screw which was inserted in his foot during surgery. The pain has now subsided and Locke is keen to see the 21-year-old reclaim his place in the starting line-up after two substitute appearances.
“He’s had one or two little niggles since he’s come back,” said the manager. “He’s played three or four under-20 games now. He was getting a little bit of pain from the foot, but that seems to have settled down. I’m very hopeful that Jason will push in the next couple of weeks and get himself back in the team.”
Winger David Smith also has an outside chance of featuring against United having recovered from a hairline fracture of the knee. He is likely to start as a substitute at best after resuming full training this week.
“I’m delighted to get David back,” Locke told the Hearts website. “He’s been out for a wee period since the League Cup semi-final and at the time of getting his injury he was playing very, very well. He’s trained this week and he’s looking sharp so it’s great to have him back amongst the group again. I wouldn’t rule him out for Friday. He’s looked good in training. Hopefully he can pick up from where he left off before he got injured.”
Locke must again decide whether to change his defence against an in-form United side. Hearts have conceded ten goals in their last three outings but Locke has precious few options to refresh his back line.
The lack of experience, particularly in defence, has been an ongoing concern for the Hearts management team, with Locke especially unhappy with individual errors in the 4-2 defeat at Kilmarnock last time out.
“We lost poor goals, which wasn’t collective, it was individual,” he said. “With not having a game at the weekend, we’ve had a wee chance to work on things on the training pitch. We have to give ourselves a chance in games and cut out the individual errors. That’s not really been the case recently.”