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Hearts defender John Souttar hopeful injury problems are in the past

John Souttar believes he is well equipped to hit the ground running after returning from injury to help Hearts’ relegation fight.

The defender has helped Hearts keep clean sheets against Airdrie and Ross County after recovering from a five-month lay-off from an ankle problem.

The centre-back knows he needs to get back to his best as quickly as possible with Hearts four points adrift at the foot of the Ladbrokes Premiership following their draw in Dingwall.

And he feels better able to do so after learning from previous lengthy lay-offs – he had three months out last season and was missing for six months in 2017 after rupturing an Achilles.

“I know how to deal with it,” the 23-year-old said. “When I came back from my Achilles, it took me two or three months before I was back properly.

“But I have played two games in a week now and I have felt fine, not 100 per cent, it will take four or five games to be 100 per cent.  But compared to the first comeback it was a lot better and that’s credit to the sports scientists.”

Hearts are now unbeaten in three matches after Daniel Stendel lost his first four games in charge but face Rangers on Sunday.

Souttar said: “Obviously it’s not the ideal situation to come back into but I need to do everything I can to help the team.

“You can see signs the manager’s style of play is slowly coming. It won’t happen overnight. There will probably be mistakes but we have to do it quickly.

“We’ve not got loads of time, that’s obvious to everyone, so we have got to hit the ground running.

“I thought we did well on Wednesday, there were signs of what he wants to do happening. There are still things we can improve on but we had chances. And maybe in previous games we weren’t really getting those chances.”

Souttar is also getting used to playing with a new central defensive partner in Craig Halkett after skipper Christophe Berra was sidelined by Stendel.

“He’s a good player, young like myself, and we are just trying to adapt to a different style and how the manager wants us to play,” Souttar said.

“We have built ourselves on clean sheets and we have had two so far. That’s what we have got to do, build a solid base and make sure we don’t concede a lot of goals.

“Just defend as well as we can for the team, and let’s hope we can pick up a few wins doing that.”