GARY Locke insists Mark Stewart could still play for Raith Rovers in Saturday’s Fife derby – just 48 hours after going under the surgeon’s knife.
The 28-year-old had an operation yesterday to repair a broken wrist sustained in the 4-2 victory over Falkirk a fortnight ago.
The former Dundee, Falkirk and Kilmarnock striker played through the pain barrier in snatching Rovers a dramatic late win over Queen of the South last weekend when he netted his third goal in just two games.
After struggling with even simple domestic chores, however, Stewart was booked into hospital on Thursday morning for the surgery on his scaphoid bone.
But Locke has not given up hope on having his in-form marksman in his squad for tomorrow’s trip to face rivals Dunfermline at East End Park.
He said: “Mark’s going to be extremely doubtful, I would imagine, but there’s still a wee chance he could be available.
“It’s a blow for us because he’s scored three goals in two games and he’s got himself back in the team.
“He’s been struggling with his wrist and he needed to get it done, and this was the only time we could get it done.
“We’ve got to take medical advice on what happens next, so we’ll see what the surgeon says and we’ll speak to the physio, and make a decision.
“We’ll give him every chance.”
Raith earned Fife’s bragging rights with a 2-0 victory over Dunfermline in the first meeting of the old foes back in August.
Since then Rovers have kept pace at the top of the Championship, where they lie in third just four points adrift of leaders Hibs.
The Pars, meanwhile, have managed just two league wins all season and are languishing in third-bottom spot.
But Locke, a veteran of many Edinburgh derbies from his time as a player and coach at Hearts, is backing counterpart Allan Johnston, who he worked with at Kilmarnock, to spark a turnaround.
He added: “Okay they’ve had a couple of indifferent results but they’re a quality side. I’ve seen a lot of them and they’ve got loads of quality through their squad.
“They’ve got a great management team. I’ve worked with Allan very, very closely when I was at Kilmarnock and he’s a great manager.
“I’ve certainly no doubts they’ll pick up, but hopefully it will be after the weekend.
“Winning any derby is enjoyable. It’s great for the club, it’s great for the supporters, it’s great for everybody involved.
“But we certainly know it’s going to be a tough match.”