Football - McGowan avoids long lay-off

St Mirren boss Danny Lennon hopes to have Paul McGowan back in action for Saturday's trip to Aberdeen after it was confirmed the playmaker has not suffered a broken toe.

The former Celtic man sat out Tuesday night's William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round replay with Queen of the South as the Buddies booked a trip to Tannadice to face Dundee United.

McGowan limped off against Inverness on Saturday and was forced to watch the 3-0 win against the Doonhamers from the Paisley stands while wearing a protective boot.

But scan results have now shown the 26-year-old did not suffer a fracture and Lennon is already including him in his plans for the Scottish Premiership clash at Pittodrie this weekend.

The Saints boss told Press Association Sport: "We got the news as I was driving home from last night's game and it's very positive.

"We were looking at 10 weeks out and that would have been a huge blow because he's an important player for us. But with the news confirming there is no break, we're now pushing to have him back in for Saturday.

"We had to take precautions and treat it as it was fractured just in case that's how it turned out, so that's why Paul was wearing the moon boot.

"But our physio Gerry Docherty is now going full-steam ahead to get him back in time for Aberdeen this weekend."

The man who stood in for McGowan against Queens insists he is determined to keep hold of his place.

Gary Harkins marked his first start since for almost three months with the opening goal against the Dumfries side.

The 28-year-old, who stroked home Steven Thompson's knockdown in the 18th minute to net his second goal for Saints, insists he is not ready to accept an understudy role just yet.

Harkins said: "I need to try and hold on to my place anyway whether Paul is fit or not. I need to go out and try to set up goals and stay in the team.

"It was good to be out playing, obviously scoring was good and a wee bonus to getting into the next round.

"It was good to get off to a start and get on the score-sheet.

"It's nearly three months so it was good to be back out there. I was a bit rusty but it will come."

Harkins had not started a game since a 2-0 defeat by Hibernian on September 21. Lennon's side have lost just once in 10 games since that Easter Road clash and the former Kilmarnock player has found himself restricted to substitute appearances.

Harkins, who joined from Dundee in the summer, said: "It's obviously very frustrating. You go in every day and work hard but nobody likes working without playing at the end of the week. It's frustrating. It happens, you just need to pick your head up and get on with it."

That sole defeat in their last 10 games was an emphatic one, a 4-0 loss to Dundee United, and the win over Queens set up a return trip to Tayside in the fifth round.

Harkins joked he would try to encourage bids for the likes of Ryan Gauld and Gary Mackay-Steven before Saints face free-scoring United on February 8.

"It's probably one of the ones that you would have wanted to avoid," he said. "But I'm going to phone a few people and hopefully sell some of them in January.

"It will be a tough one but we are looking forward to the next round."