St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright admits he was more than surprised when goalkeeper Mark Hurst revealed he was quitting for the United States.
The 23-year-old had been back up in recent weeks to Cammy Bell, who had taken over from injured number one Zander Clark.
However, Hurst’s unexpected announcement last week has left Wright naming 17-year-old Ross Sinclair as his replacement on the bench for the trip to Livingston in the Ladbrokes Premiership on Saturday.
Wright is pleased to welcome back defender Brian Easton from a groin injury which has kept him out since December 2017 but was left perplexed by Hurst who was contracted until the end of the season.
“At the end of last week Mark simply came into my office and announced he was taking himself off to the States,” the Northern Irishman told the club’s official website.
“To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement.
“It’s far from ideal at a time when we have Zander Clark injured too.
“Young Ross Sinclair will be on the bench tomorrow to replace Mark. Niall Keown is a doubt as well for us due to a slight hamstring problem.
“It’s great news to have Brian Easton back available for selection and he’ll make the squad of 20 for the first-time since returning from injury.
“Whether he makes the 18, we’ll have to wait and see but the whole place has been buzzing to see him back involved.
“It was great to see him in there getting his first full 90 minutes from the Reserves on Monday and he’s getting closer and closer every week.”
The Perth club, sitting in seventh place in the table, are without a win in their last eight games in all competitions but have twice beaten Livi 1-0 this season.
With five games remaining before the split, Wright said: “In these remaining games we’ve got to make ourselves more chances and be more creative in that final third.
“We need to get more opportunities so we can get more than one goal to kill off a game.
“There’s room for improvement for sure but we’ve got to remember as well that we’re currently on 38 points – that’s what we had after 33 games last year.
“The run we’re on at the moment isn’t nice but we’re in a good position and we’ve done well over the season.
“Now we need to get back to winning ways and build some momentum for the final games before the split.”