Aberdeen were today dealt a blow with Derby County confirming they will take Max Lowe back from his loan in January.
The 21-year-old left-back has been a stand-out performer since arriving from the Championship club in late August.
Dons boss Derek McInnes had hoped to extend that loan deal to secure Lowe for the second half of the season.
However, Rams boss Frank Lampard has confirmed in talks with McInnes that Lowe will return to Pride Park at the end of the month.
McInnes said: “Max is going back to Derby.
“I spoke with Frank Lampard on Wednesday and he confirmed what we kind of thought.
“They have got issues at Derby to a couple of their left-backs.
“As much as Frank sees the benefit of Max being here and appreciates what we have done for him, they need him back.
“It is disappointing for us and a blow but it is one that we were half expecting to be honest.
“He has got three games left and has work to do still with us and we wish him well.
Meanwhile, McInnes today praised Andy Considine for alleviating the on-going centre-back crisis.
The manager has confirmed defender Mikey Devlin is ruled out until after the winter break with a foot tendon injury.
Devlin, 25, was this week sent to see a specialist in London to get a further assessment of the problem that has ruled him out for seven games.
Although the specialist confirmed the injury is not serious, Devlin will undergo further treatment and return next month.
Devlin is one of three centre-backs out injured with Mark Reynolds (knee surgery) and Tommie Hoban (shoulder surgery) long-term absentees.
However, there was some welcome good news as Reynolds was today set to return to full training after five months out.
Reynolds has been sidelined since undergoing knee surgery in July.
Having operated at left-back Considine has moved into the right-sided centre-back role alongside Scotland cap Scott McKenna.
Considine, 31, will retain that position for the remaining three games before the winter break, against Hearts, Celtic and Livingston.
McInnes said: “We have had three centre-halves out for the last six weeks which is far from ideal.
“Thankfully we have been lucky to call upon the experience of Andy and just slot in there.
“He played centre-back the year before I came in and won player of the year alongside Mark Reynolds and Russell Anderson at times.
“So it is not new to him.
“Andy has gone into centre-back and helped alleviate that issue. He has done very well.
“Andy is not totally blameless like any player for certain goals but by and large he has been very steady for us.
“That is why having defenders who can play in a couple of positions are invaluable, especially at this time when we have been hit by injuries.”
Aberdeen will play their seventh game in less than three weeks when they host Hearts at Pittodrie tomorrow.
With the defence stretched to breaking point McInnes admits they are walking an injury tightrope that the crippling fixture schedule is not helping.
He said: “The run of games puts more strain on that defensive area of the team.
“We are just about getting away with it at the minute but we have had to contend with a lot of injuries and suspensions to the back this season.”
As well as slotting into the centre-back role Considine also pitched in with two goals in the 5-1 demolition of Dundee on Tuesday evening.
McInnes said: “It was a great header from Andy for his first and a good finish for the other.
“It is good that we have that threat and that we can spread the goals around.”
There was some light at the end of the tunnel for McInnes’ centre-back problems with Reynolds set to end five months of injury hell by returning to full training.
Reynolds has been out since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in a pre-season friendly against Cove Rangers in July.
McInnes said: “Mark joined in training on Monday and will be in full training by the end of the week. It will be fantastic to have him back.”
But Dons winger Gary Mackay-Steven has been ruled out of tomorrow’s clash with Hearts.
The 28-year-old has been sidelined since suffering concussion in the 1-0 Betfred Cup loss to Celtic on December 2.
However, he could be fit to face Celtic at Pittodrie on Boxing Day.
Centre-back Mikey Devlin is ruled out until after the winter break with a foot tendon injury sustained on international duty with Scotland last month.
On-loan Watford centre-back Hoban is also set to return to Aberdeen in January.