GARY Oliver says he won’t rush himself back into first-team contention for Saturday’s Championship  encounter with Queen of the South following his knee injury — despite making a return to training.

Oliver took part in some practice drills at Parklea yesterday and insists he’s been working hard since he picked up the knock against the Doonhamers in February.

But the striker plans on making sure he’s ready to return to action, both physically and mentally, before he declares himself fit again to star for 

The 21-year-old exclusively told the Tele last month of his nerves at the prospect of being on the receiving end of any more hefty challenges. 

And he says that tonight’s under-20s game against Ayr United, and Saturday’s top team clash with Queen of the South, may both come just too soon for him.

He exclusively told the Tele: “I think it’s still a bit touch and go for the weekend, but the gaffer and physio will have a chat and see what they think. 

“Maybe the bench or something, I don’t even know.

“I think that, if the gaffer asked me [about playing against Queen of the South on Saturday], I’d probably say it was a wee bit too soon. 

“I don’t want to rush it and hurt [my knee] again.

“With the big games coming up — Falkirk, Hibs, Dunfermline — I’d rather get myself prepared for them and hopefully we make it to the play-offs.

“I don’t know if I’ll be playing. The gaffer will know best, he’s done his knee before as well. He knows what it’s like and won’t put me straight in if it’s not the right thing. I’m still getting my fitness back and I’m in the gym every night trying to get myself better and stronger.

“To be honest I’d rather leave it another week just so I know for certain. The physio said it usually takes six weeks to heal and it’s been four-and-a-half weeks now. I need to gradually ease myself back in.”

He continued: “The 20s game, I’m not sure about either. I probably could play, but it might be a bit soon. 

“I’ll need to do it one day, so maybe the next one if the gaffer allows. It’s up to him.”

He laughed: “I think the photographers were a bit surprised to see me back in training [on Monday]!

“It was my second proper day running and kicking the ball again so it was good.

“I’ve built myself back up quite slowly and I was working a bit with Conor Pepper who was putting some wee shooting drills on for me. I was striking the ball well.

“I’ve had possession training and the passing but I’ve not actually played the contact yet. I think maybe Thursday will be the contact session.”

Holding the ball up and bringing team-mates into play is a big part of Oliver’s game, and he insists it’s vital that he’s still able to do exactly what he was doing before his injury.

And he praised Ton physio Jane Johnstone for playing her part in getting him back in training — and joked that he’s got to know both physios — Jane and Alyson Fielding — much better since he’s spent a good deal of the season on the treatment table.

He said: “In training I’ll be able to feel how I can hold people off and take tackles from the boys, judge myself from there. Twisting and turning is what I do. I need to make sure I can do that and take it from there and see how I feel.

“I’ve been told by the physios that I’m a quick healer. I’ve been through the wars this season. I was kicked in the face [against St Mirren] and had a concussion, then obviously my knee. 

“The physios have got to know me with all my injuries this season. Jane has been really good with me recently, she’s helped me a lot.”