Krystian Nowak is ready to return from a two-month injury absence when Hearts travel to Ross County this weekend.
The Polish defender hasn’t featured since the 0-0 draw with Rangers at Ibrox on August 19 due to a persistent knee problem.
He played for Hearts Under-20s in a 3-2 win against Dundee United on Tuesday night and is now hoping to force his way into the first-team squad on Saturday. French midfielder Malaury Martin and goalkeeper Jack Hamilton also played for the youths at Tannadice.
“Krystian has had a wee problem with his knee but he’s trained regularly now for the last couple of weeks,” Hearts manager Craig Levein told the Evening News.
“He played on Tuesday for the Under-20s, as did Malo and Jack Hamilton.
“We haven’t been playing many overage players in the 20s but Krystian is now fully fit and needed a game. Likewise, Malo needed a game and Jack could also do with a game as well.”
Owen Coyle will be in charge of Ross County at home for the first time against Hearts.
“That makes things a little bit more difficult,” admitted Levein.
“Owen has a good record in Scotland and he knows the league so that brings a challenge for us.
“We aren’t in a position yet to be able to go to any of these grounds and be certain of picking up anything. That’s going to take a little bit of time.
“We just need to pick up points and gain more confidence. Then it becomes a bit easier to go away and win matches. It will be hard at Ross County but I’m happy with the way we’ve been performing. With a little rub of the green, hopefully we can pick up three points up there.”
The trip to the Highlands precedes a run of ten consecutive games in Edinburgh for Hearts, seven of which are due to take place at a redeveloped Tynecastle. Levein’s team have been unable to play at their home venue since the Premiership season started as the main stand is being redeveloped.
Levein added: “It’s been difficult not being at Tynecastle every second week because, generally, we get good results there. It has been a bit of a toil at times but I’ve been pleased with the players’ effort. We probably haven’t picked up the points we deserved but, when we’ve lost, we’ve lost very narrowly. The players’ attitude has been first class.”