Attacker Ryan Hedges could yet make a shock return from injury this season, Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes confirmed.
The Welsh international was initially ruled out for the rest of the campaign by a pectoral injury that required surgery.
However, McInnes revealed playmaker Hedges could yet be available for the last few games of the season.
With the campaign now extended to accommodate the Scottish Cup which concludes with the final on May 22, McInnes hopes Hedges can still play a key role in the Dons’ season.
It would be the second positive fitness boost for the Reds this week following confirmation on-loan striker Fraser Hornby’s thigh injury is not as bad as feared.
However, McInnes has urged the Reds to rack up the wins to ensure the season is still alive when Hedges and Hornby return.
He said: “We’ll keep pushing Ryan Hedges to try to get him available for the last game or two.
“However, we have to win games between now and then or the last games won’t matter.
“We have to deal with the games in front of us with the squad we have got.”
Hedges underwent surgery in Manchester two weeks ago on the injury suffered early on in a 2-0 loss to Livingston at Pittodrie.
Following the operation the prognosis was that he would be out for three to four months – ending his campaign.
However, McInnes confirmed there is fresh hope Hedges could yet return to bolster the bid for third and Scottish Cup glory.
He said: “Ryan is in and out of a sling at the minute as he is letting it heal properly following the operation and after having it pinned.
“In terms of his leg work, he can maybe start running and cycling once that is past a certain stage in the weeks ahead.
“It’s a long shot to have him back for us for the last couple of games.
“But certainly with the extended league now and with the Scottish Cup then he might just have a chance to be involved in those last couple of games.”
It is also hoped on-loan Stade de Reims striker Hornby, 21, will return sooner than anticipated from a thigh injury suffered in the 1-0 defeat of Kilmarnock.
Initial scans revealed a “significant tear”, but after Hornby has reacted well. McInnes will send the striker for further scans in the hope the injury is not as bad as initially diagnosed.
He said: “We’ll re-image Fraser’s thigh in the next couple of weeks to see where we are with that as we don’t think it’s as bad as initially feared because of how he is presenting.
“Sometimes these scan results can maybe show a bit more than it actually is.
“Fraser is feeling pretty good about it, so we feel by re-imaging it in two weeks’ time we’ll be closer to having an idea of where he is.
“Getting Fraser back could be key for us.”
McInnes has only two fit senior strikers in Florian Kamberi and Callum Hendry available for tomorrow’s home clash with Hamilton.
However, he can now call upon teenage striker Michael Ruth after the 19-year-old was sidelined by illness.
McInnes said: “Michael Ruth is back in the squad after a torrid time due to glandular fever.
“He has been integrated back in the squad for a couple of days, but we’re mindful of how tough a time he has had.
“He is the only one who may come into the squad for the game.”
Hedges and Hornby could yet play a key role in the race for third and also the bid to land the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1990 after confirmation from the SFA the tournament would be completed this season.
McInnes said: “We thought the best case scenario would have been something similar to last season where we would maybe get to the latter stages and finish the Scottish Cup next season, but it is good it is going to be concluded as it gives everyone that focus.
“Cups have always been important to us and if we can get as strong a squad available for the next tie and hopefully beyond that would be nice and it’s good to have the Scottish Cup to look forward to.”
New dates for the 2020-21 Scottish Cup have been confirmed.
Second Round: Tuesday, 23 March
Third Round: Saturday, 3 April
Fourth Round: Saturday, 17 April
Fifth Round: Saturday, 24 April
Semi-Finals: 8 & 9 May
Final: Saturday, 22 May#ScottishCuphttps://t.co/1lnupVHxIK
— Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) March 3, 2021