WANDERERS finally have a ray of hope on the horizon as they continue to operate without a recognised left-back.

While Tim Ream will again step into the breach when Dougie Freedman’s side travel to Leeds United this afternoon, reports from the training ground suggest Marc Tierney is a matter of weeks away from a playing return.

The tough-tackling summer signing has been out of action since breaking his leg in September – leaving the Whites without a specialist defender on the left.

Freedman has been unable to sign a stop gap, losing out on Sweden international Mikael Dyrestam and West Brom’s Goran Popov, to name but two. But he has now been able to scale down his search with the news Tierney could play a much larger part in the season finale than first expected.

“Marc is out there running with us and he might be back playing by the end of the month,” the manager conceded yesterday.

Tierney has not featured since being carried off in a 1-1 home draw against Yeovil Town but could potentially feature in seven games if he is back in contention by the start of April.

Freedman also revealed that Joe Riley is on the comeback trail, with hopes high that he will be able to feature at first-team level before the end of the season.

The home-grown 22-year-old has not played at senior level since January 2013 when he broke his foot playing against Sunderland in the FA Cup. He returned a few months later but damaged knee ligaments in a pre-season friendly.

“Joe seems to be running at the same sort of speed and intensity – so he’s definitely got a chance of playing before the end of the season as well,” Freedman added. “It has been a massive shame for the lad but I’m starting to see in Joe a young man who’s dedicated to his profession.

“I’m making sure his rehabilitation is spot on and hopefully that means when he gets back this time, we can really see what he has got to offer.”

Freedman says he has got the ability to bring in “one or two” more loans within his budget but is currently satisfied with the options in his squad - soon to be boosted by the returning Riley and Tierney.

His situation is further complicated by the fact he can only name five loanees in a matchday squad.

“With Alan Hutton coming in last week I think we’re okay right now but if we get another Darren Pratley situation and lose someone suddenly to injury then we might have to look at something,” he said.