Hearts’ McGowan set for League Cup final return

DYLAN McGOWAN is winning his fitness race to play in tomorrow’s Scottish Communities League Cup final. The Australian defender has trained with the Hearts first-team and, provided he suffers no reaction to an ankle injury, will be involved against St Mirren at Hampden Park.

Hearts’ interim manager Gary Locke explained today that having McGowan available would be a welcome boost with Fraser Mullen having undergone surgery on an ankle fracture sustained in last week’s Edinburgh derby. That initially left 19-year-old Brad McKay, who only made his senior debut when replacing Mullen at Easter Road, as favourite to start at right-back in the final.

McGowan, though, has recovered quickly from his own ankle problem and could start tomorrow if he proves his fitness in time. “He’s trained with us so, if we don’t get any reaction, he’ll certainly come into the reckoning,” Locke told the Evening News. “It would be a boost to have him, especially with losing Fraser to injury, because it gives us another body for that position. We have a couple of options for right-back.”

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Darren Barr is available again after serving a one-match suspension against Hibs. He can also play right-back but has been most effective in midfield this season. “Darren is free of suspension and that’s great news because our squad is quite thin at the moment. With both of these boys okay, we can add another two to the squad,” said Locke.

Locke stressed he has kept the build-up to the final as normal as possible for what is a largely inexperienced Hearts squad. Along with fellow interim manager Darren Murray, assistant manager Edgaras Jankauskas and goalkeeping coach Alan Combe, he is maintaining a light-hearted atmosphere.

“Darren, Alan and Edgaras are there, as is John Murray (director of football),” said Locke. “We know what we want to do so the backroom staff that have been here all season will be the ones I rely on. We’ll all make a decision and hopefully it will be the right one.

“I’m still doing stuff on the training ground although it’s a bit different because I’m the man in charge this time, which adds a wee bit more pressure. I’ll prepare the team as well as I can. I played a part in doing that last time we were in a cup final and hopefully we can get the same outcome this time.

“I put pressure on myself and I’m pretty new to the management side of things. Everyone close to me is the same. I come from a massive Hearts background and a massive Hearts family. They’re all the same - they just want Hearts to win every week like I do.

“For many of the young lads this will be their first final. We’ve planned the training to stay low-key because I don’t think you need to change anything. We said at the start of the season it would be great to get to another cup final and, thanks to John McGlynn, we’ve done that.”