Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has confirmed loan star Fraser Hornby’s thigh injury is not as bad as initially feared.
In a major boost to the bid to finish third, McInnes is hopeful the Stade de Reims striker will return for the post-split run-in as the Reds battle to overtake Hibs in the table.
Scotland Under-21 international Hornby suffered a thigh injury in the recent 1-0 defeat of Kilmarnock.
When scans revealed a significant tear, there were concerns he could be a long-term injury absentee with the normal prognosis for such an injury up to two months out.
In the immediate aftermath of those scan results, McInnes said the injury was an “absolute disaster”.
However, McInnes confirmed the 21-year-old is improving and he expects him to be available to boost the bid for third.
Hornby was secured on loan from the French side until the end of the season in a triple striker swoop on transfer deadline day.
Strikers Florian Kamberi (St Gallen) and Callum Hendry (St Johnstone) were also secured on loan.
McInnes said: “It might not be as bad as we first thought and I’m hoping Fraser will be back for the run-in.
“Although Fraser is improving slowly, it will still keep him out for the next wee while.”
Hornby suffered the injury in his fifth consecutive start for the Dons when shooting at goal early in the first half against Kilmarnock.
Fellow loan star Hendry was introduced as his replacement and scored with his first touch of the game to end Aberdeen’s six-game run without a goal – an unwanted new club record.
McInnes believes Hornby, signed by French top-flight outfit Reims for £1.8 million from Everton last summer, was beginning to show what he can bring to the Dons’ attack prior to his injury set-back.
He said: “In the second half against Celtic (1-0 loss, February 17) and in the start against Kilmarnock, Fraser was really finding his feet.
“There was an understanding for us these boys were not going to be perfect in terms of match sharpness.
“However, I felt as though Fraser was just getting there.”
Kamberi and Hendry are the only two available strikers for Saturday’s league clash with Hamilton at Pittodrie.
With just seven league fixtures remaining, Aberdeen will battle it out with Hibs to secure that third placed Premiership finish.
The Easter Road club hold a four-point advantage and have also played a game less.
However, the Reds will also have the opportunity to go for silverware this season following confirmation the Scottish Cup will be completed this season.
The tournament will resume on Tuesday, March 23 with 12 outstanding second-round ties.
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
Huntly will travel away to Dumbarton in the second round on March 23 with the winner securing a home tie against Aberdeen on April 3.
The other dates are Saturday April 17 (last 16), Saturday April 24 (quarter-finals) and Saturday May 8 and Sunday May 9 (semi-finals).
The Scottish Cup final will draw the curtain on the season on Saturday May 22.
The tournament had been in doubt after being paused along with all football below the Championship in January amid tightening off Covid-19 restrictions.
That suspension was partially lifted on Tuesday with the SFA later confirming new cup dates.
Last season’s 2019-20 Scottish Cup was postponed last March and ran over into the current campaign.
Aberdeen had secured a Scottish Cup semi-final slot when defeating St Mirren 2-0 away from home on February 29 last year.
However, the tournament was put on ice when Scottish football was shut-down on March 13 due to the pandemic.
Aberdeen had to wait until this season to face Celtic in the delayed semi-final, losing 2-0 at Hampden on November 1.
McInnes is relieved the Scottish Cup will be played to a conclusion this season.
McInnes said: “There was a concern the Scottish Cup would not be concluded as there was talk about maybe only taking it so far again similar to last year. Maybe semi-finals and finals played next season again when there are crowds. Maybe we would just run out of time because of the situation with the lower leagues.
“Now that is not the case, it is good that we will have that conclusion to the Scottish Cup.
“It will mean that things are going to be tight with the fixture list.
“However, getting it concluded was the best all round.”