THEIR Scottish Cup hopes might be over but Kelty Hearts have been boosted by the return of a trio of key players to their side.

The New Central Park outfit were unable to match their exploits in the tournament last season, which saw them reach the fifth round for the first time in their history, after Championship side Partick Thistle knocked them out at Firhill last Saturday.

A memorable win over then holders St Johnstone was the high point of Kelty’s run to the last 16 last term, which ended with defeat at St Mirren, but another shock proved beyond them in Maryhill as Ian McCall’s side earned a fourth round tie with Dunfermline.

Despite the defeat, there was cheer for boss John Potter in welcoming back three of his most experienced stars as he prepares his team for an important match at home to Peterhead this afternoon.

Captain Michael Tidser, who had missed their last two matches, the defeats at home to Montrose and away at Airdrieonians, made a welcome return to the starting line-up, whilst there were substitute appearances for both midfielder Nicky Low and striker Nathan Austin.

Low, who only joined on loan from Arbroath in September – his deal runs until January – hadn’t featured since the 2-1 derby defeat at Dunfermline at the end of October.

At Firhill he came off the bench for the final 25 minutes.

That was the same amount of time afforded to hitman Austin, so often Kelty’s talisman, after a seven-game lay-off.

The 28-year-old, who has only played nine times so far this term due to fitness issues, had been out since picking up a hamstring problem in a 2-0 defeat at Edinburgh at the beginning of October.

In 35 appearances for the maroon machine last season, he hit the back of the net 21 times and they've sorely missed him in attack.

Austin's only goal of this campaign so far came in a 3-2 League Cup, group stage success at Cove Rangers, but Potter is delighted to have him, and Tidser and Low, back in contention.

“We’ve just got to take care of them,” he told Kelty Hearts TV after the game at Firhill.

“We need them fit. I’ve said that before; if we’ve got a fully fit squad, it gives us good options.

"Hopefully, leading into Christmas, we’ve got that, and hopefully the boys will stay fit.”

Having embarked on a run of five wins from six games in all competitions during October, Kelty are now winless in their last five, losing all but one.

They sit eighth in the League One table, eight points ahead of second bottom Clyde, and a further two clear of bottom side, Peterhead, who visit New Central Park this Saturday.

“It’s a big game,” Potter noted.

“Hopefully we go in with a full squad, but positions are up for grabs.

“With that full squad, players need to do enough to stay in the team.

"Decisions will need to be made on that team, but we’ve still got good players that can hurt teams.

“We just need to do a little bit more in both boxes at the moment.”