ALAN Archibald hopes captain Sean Welsh will be back within a month to bolster Partick Thistle's bid to beat the drop.
The former Hibs player has been a huge loss for the Jags in recent weeks, with their woes in the middle of the park compounded after Isaac Osbourne was ruled out for the rest of campaign with an ankle injury.
Archibald is keen to strengthen his midfield options before the end of the transfer window tonight, but the Firhill boss is eager to see his skipper back in action as soon as possible.
He said: "We are hoping it will be a few weeks, but we have been told that since he has been out at the start of November. It has just been a groin problem that doesn't seem to get any better.
"We can see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel now and we are maybe talking three or four weeks."
Thistle host Dundee United this weekend as they look to haul themselves off 11th spot in the Premiership table after a frustrating run.
Arabs boss Jackie McNamara sent youngsters Johnny Souttar and Ryan Gauld away for a mid-season break earlier this month.
And Archibald admits that is a luxury that would have been beneficial to his stretched squad. He said: "One or two of our boys could do with a rest. A couple of them have played a lot of football. We are not in that position where we are lucky enough to be able to do that.
"I think there is maybe too much emphasis placed on burn-out. I don't agree with that.
"It is a lot for them to deal with mentally playing all those games.
"The United ones are different. They have had a lot of transfer speculation around them. Maybe that is why they needed a break. Hopefully, though, they are not too fresh coming back."
The visit of United this weekend gives Thistle another chance to finally end their home hoodoo this term.
The Jags have failed to win any of their 12 Premiership fixtures at Firhill this season and pressure has grown on them to claim their first home triumph.
They were held to a goalless draw on the first night of the new top-flight campaign by McNamara's side in August and Archibald is eager to get the monkey of their backs.
He said: "It is our fault we haven't won at home. The media only go on about it if we don't do it so we need to get that victory.
"United like to play and so we do so hopefully it will make for a good game, like the first game, and hopefully it will be a better outcome for ourselves.
"The players have taken responsibility for it, you see that in their performances.
"The St Johnstone game was the only one that has been disappointing.
"Other than that, we have gone out in a great manner. They do speak about it in a tactical sense. They are not speaking about it and letting it get them down."