First choice keeper Joe Lewis today handed Aberdeen a major fitness boost.
Lewis has begun work with keeper coach Gordon Marshall and is on course to return for the league split.
No1 Lewis has been out since January 24 with a knee injury.
Boss Derek McInnes was forced to raid the January transfer window to bring in Newcastle United’s Freddie Woodman on loan as an emergency replacement for Lewis.
Former England squad keeper Lewis sustained a knee injury in a collision with Josh Windass and Anthony O’Connor in a 2-0 loss at Rangers in January. It was initially feared Lewis, 30, who was rushed to hospital in Glasgow, had suffered a leg break.
That was ruled out but a subsequent MRI scan 24 hours later confirmed cartilage damage. He underwent surgery and the early prognosis was the stopper could be out for three month – until the end of April.
However, boss McInnes confirmed he is on course for a return in early April.
The Premiership split is after the April 7 game at Hearts. The Scottish Cup semi-final, should the Dons progress past the replay next Tuesday with Kilmarnock, is on April 14 or 15.
McInnes said: “Joe ismaking good progress.
“He is back on the pitch doing work with the physios and doing his handling with Gordon Marshall.
“It is good to see him back. Joe is probably another month or so away – say five or six games tops.
“He will be there or thereabouts for the first week or two in April.”
Newcastle’s Woodman, 20, was drafted in on loan until the end of the season on transfer deadline day and has played all five games since arriving.
Danny Rogers had been in goals for the previous two games.
Lewis had played every competitive minute since signing in summer 2016.
Although his rehab is going well, McInnes insists the availability of Woodman and Rogers ensures Lewis will not be rushed back.
He said: “Danny and Freddie have shown a real capability and I am delighted to have that level of goalkeeper with us.
“Obviously, Joe is a key player for us and hopefully we get him back, although there is no real pressure to rush him when you have two keepers such as those.”
Meanwhile, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has ruled out any possibility of on-loan attacker Ryan Christie being at Pittodrie next season.
Christie has been a huge success at Pittodrie and has scored seven goals this season.
The 23-year-old also secured his debut Scotland cap this season in the 1-0 friendly loss to Holland at Pittodrie.
Christie, contracted to Celtic until summer 2019, is on loan until the end of the campaign.
Dons boss McInnes is keen to secure Christie beyond the summer but Rogers confirmed that will not happen.
Rodgers said: “I can’t blame Derek for wanting to have a player of that quality, of course, but it’s not a discussion really.
“The plan was always for Ryan to come back.
“I looked at it last summer after he’d spent six months on loan to Aberdeen, working with Derek at a fantastic club, under pressure.
“I asked, ‘Is it better for him to play 40-plus games for them or play between five and 10 for me?’
“He’s needed the development. And that plan hasn’t changed for me.
“We had a call back in January if we’d wanted him but I always felt a year playing out, working on his game and his physical strength, on preparing week in week out for games would benefit him and benefit Celtic.
“And I believe he has made the most of that.
“So the plan will be for him to come back and reintegrate into the squad here over the summer, and he has a year left on his contract, so we’ll look at it from there.”
Meanwhile, the Dons U20s SPFL Development League game with Hamilton at Station Park, Forfar today (2pm) has been postponed.