ALLAN JOHNSTON has hailed the return of fit-again Joe Cardle but insists Fraser Aird has given him a selection headache.

The Pars boss was delighted to see talisman Cardle, the club’s top scorer, make his return from a hamstring injury sustained against St Mirren last month as a late substitute in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Livingston.

Johnston felt that the winger had been a “big loss” to his side but was rewarded for giving Aird just his second league start, with the Canadian scoring a stunning goal on his way to claiming the sponsors’ man of the match.

Speaking ahead of this afternoon’s Highland fling at Inverness, Johnston commented: “It was good to get Joe back on the bench. He’s only trained for a couple of days to be fair to him but I thought it’d give everyone a wee boost having him on the bench.

“It’s important over the next couple of weeks to build up his sharpness and get back to the level he was at before but it was also a boost to have Fraser Aird play really well.

“He’s been patient. It’s been difficult for him waiting for his chance; Joe was on fire at the start of the season but he’s come in, done really well and he’s got to make sure he does that week-in, week-out because we’ve got good competition there.

“I thought Airdy was really good; with the pace he’s got he was really direct and obviously he scores a great goal as well.

“I think everyone was really focused and desperate to prove that they’re much better than what they’ve showed in the past couple of weeks.

“It’s an important period coming where we’re playing a lot of top teams away from home, so we need to be right on it.”

Johnston expects a different Inverness to the side Athletic dismissed 5-1 in August, and added: “They look as though they’ve started to pick up now; they’ve kept four clean sheets in a row and seemingly they played really well at the weekend, so it’s going to be a tough game.

“I think they’re much improved from what they were at the start of the season but we’ve got to make sure we play at the tempo we did at the weekend.

“It’s one we’re looking forward to and going into with a lot of confidence after such a good performance.”

Michael Paton, meanwhile, could be in contention after Johnston confirmed that he had returned to full training on Monday.