HEARTS' striker crisis deepened today after Calum Elliot was ruled out for up to eight weeks with knee cartilage damage.
Hospital scans have confirmed the extent of the injury suffered by Elliot, 22, during Sunday's Clydesdale Bank Premier League defeat to Rangers. He is now expected to undergo surgery.
The forward was making his first appearance of the season at the weekend after being diagnosed with a congenital heel problem.
But he lasted less than eight minutes after being introduced as a second-half substitute before being carried off on a stretcher.
He will visit a specialist in the coming days but boss Csaba Laszlo is expecting to be without the forward for the next couple of months.
"The time frame is not set in stone but it's looking like eight weeks for Calum at the moment," Laszlo told his club's official website, www.heartsfc.co.uk.
"He will visit a specialist as soon as possible and he will confirm the best course of treatment.
"This sort of injury normally requires surgery so we'll just have to wait and see and hopefully he can come back as quickly as possible."
The injury is more bad news for Laszlo, who is desperate to bolster his forward line before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
His frustration at owner Vladimir Romanov's refusal to open to purse-strings boiled over last week when he revealed he would consider walking away from the club if his demands were not met.
Laszlo was today linked with the managerial vacancy at German club Hannover but he vowed to stay at Hearts, even if he is unable to recruit a new striker.
"I cannot do more. I don't like to find excuses, so I must continue with my work and try to be better," he said in the Edinburgh Evening News.
"I know the rules in football. At the moment, my first thought is to do my job.
"I don't think it's a question of staying, it's a question of the quality of the squad. I try to get more out from the squad but you see what is happening.
"I am not thinking about whether I go or not. I am only concentrating on the job I have here and I try to do my best.
"I am looking in the direction of strikers and offensive players but if we don't get these people we must work. This is our squad. We have had to build a new team for this season and our target is the top six."
Hearts have now lost all three of their competitive games this season and Laszlo knows he might not have a choice about whether he stays or goes if results do not improve.
"If you don't have the right results, the weakest point is always the manager," he said. "For me, this is normal football life and I don't have any problem with this."