Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has admitted defeat in his attempt to persuade Frank Lampard to let him keep hold of Max Lowe for the remainder of the season.
The Derby full-back has made a major impression since joining the Dons on a six-month loan deal back in the summer.
McInnes was keen to extend the 21-year-old’s stay until the summer but saw his request turned down following talks with Rams boss Lampard.
The former England and Chelsea star is short on cover at left-back after seeing former Scotland defender Craig Forsyth rupture his cruciate ligament, ruling him out for the rest of the campaign.
Lowe has so far made 18 appearances for the Dons and collected a Betfred Cup runners-up medal during his time in the Granite City.
He is not due back at Pride Park until the week after next, however, and his farewell tour will kick-off with Hearts’ Pittodrie visit on Saturday before clashes against Celtic and Livingston.
McInnes said: “I spoke with Derby on Wednesday after the game and unfortunately for us Max is going to go back.
“We’re really disappointed with that but we understand Derby’s need to have him back – they’ve been very impressed with him in his time with us.
“They have got one or two injury issues with full-backs down there.
“We had a conversation with Max about it on Monday which we kind of expected once I’d spoken to Frank.
“It’s a sense of regret that Frank is taking him back from their point of view as they see the benefit of him staying out. But he is their player and they need him back, so he has three games left with us and hopefully we can make the most of him.
“He’s been great for us. From day one, he’s brought a different perspective for that left-back role. His best form of defending is his attacking. He will be missed.”
Lowe will be hoping his goodbye gift is another three points this weekend as the Dons look to keep pace with the sides at the top of the table.
McInnes’ side sit fourth, just three points behind leaders Celtic, and the manager wants the recent run that has produced four wins from their last five games to continue against a Hearts side down on their luck.
He said: “You can see throughout the team we’re more confident – 10 goals in the last three games which in itself helps on that front.
“And we’ve had a good spread of goals, I think only Shay Logan from our outfield players has not scored. But we’ve also got our strikers firing and looking more potent.
“The games have come thick and fast and sometimes when they do you can get that bit of momentum pretty quickly.
“Hearts are too good a team not to get themselves going again – it’s just a matter of when. We just have to concentrate on us and look to win the game.”