Raith Rovers have suffered a blow on the eve of their biggest game of the season after Hearts recalled in-form winger Dario Zanatta.
The 20-year-old Canadian, initially signed on a season-long development loan, has been summoned back by the Tynecastle club in order to attend a winter training camp in Spain with the first team squad.
Rovers asked Hearts to let him stay for the top of the table clash with Ayr on Saturday, but the request was denied, with the terms of the loan stipulating that the player can be recalled in the transfer window.
Raith manager Barry Smith said: “Hearts are entitled to recall their player but we’re disappointed with the timing of it.
“We just need to move on from it quickly. It gives someone else the opportunity to get in the team and that’s the way it should be viewed.”
Zanatta had emerged as a key player in recent weeks, scoring the winner in the New Year derby at East Fife and being named man of the match in the weekend win over Forfar. In total he netted four times in 14 appearances.
Raith are uncertain whether Zanatta will be loaned back to them as Hearts are keen to assess his progress and whether he is ready to replace another former Raith loanee, Jamie Walker, in their first team squad, who was sold to Wigan this week.