LEE JOHNSON has pencilled in next week’s Papa John’s Trophy game at Lincoln City as a possible first-team return date for Denver Hume.

Hume, who missed the whole of pre-season with a hamstring injury, played for an hour of Monday’s Under-23s game at Wolves, and has shown no ill effects following his exertions in the 3-1 win.

He will not be involved in Saturday’s League One game at Portsmouth, but could feature in next week’s EFL Trophy match at Sincil Bank, which was the ground on which he sustained his hamstring problem in last season’s play-off semi-final.

“We’re taking it day by day,” said Johnson. “Denver’s moving well and always moves well, and the coach’s eye would suggest that he’s very nearly ready.

“Maybe in that Papa John’s game, I might look to start Denver. And then maybe we’ll withdraw him at some point in the game.”

Arbenit Xhemajli is also making good progress, having been sidelined for more than a year since damaging his cruciate ligaments while on international duty with Kosovo last September.

The defender has stepped up his training again this week, and should be back on the pitch with the Under-23s at some stage next month.

“We’re still erring on the side of caution,” said Johnson. “We’ve got two Under-23 home games after this next away game (against Leeds on October 11 and Newcastle on October 18) and if all goes well from now until then, I think it will probably be my recommendation (that he plays in those).

“I’ll obviously speak to Arby and the Under-23s coaches, and look at maybe getting him some minutes in those Under-23 home games.”