Gary Locke will remain the manager of Hearts even if the club slips closer towards relegation to the SPFL Championship.

The administrators of Heart of Midlothian Football Club plc were aware that pressure was growing on the manager, but do not believe it is their place to make decisions about on-field issues and will continue to support Locke and his staff.

Sunday's 2-0 defeat by Partick Thistle at Tynecastle left Hearts 19 points behind Ross County, with only 17 games remaining. Mathematically, the club can still rescue its top-flight status but, with a young, inexperienced squad and off-the-field issues still to be secured, it seems unlikely that Hearts will escape the drop. They started the season with a 15-point deficit and have struggled after a bright start.

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Locke, though, will remain in place, despite some fans being critical of the team's recent performances. That dismay has not been reflected in the club's income streams, with ticket sales and merchandise revenue holding up but, if Hearts remain in administration past March, there will be significant concerns about lack of funding to keep the business going.

"We're sticking with Gary and hopefully Gary's sticking with us," said Bryan Jackson, of the administrators BDO. "He's shown fantastic loyalty since we went into administration and we have to show the same to him. He's a Hearts man through and through; quite frankly to even think of changing management at this time, with the squad of players we've got, you'd have to be some kind of miracle worker.

"Gary's doing incredibly well with the resources that he has. Anybody else coming in, they're going to have the same resources. You also have to remember that we're here, hopefully in a temporary capacity. So, that's a major decision and something to be considered for the future. That would be for new owners rather than the administrators. It is about saving the club and I hope all the fans will continue to turn up, support the team and, hopefully, we can get through the next few months successfully."

There would be little point in replacing Locke, since the playing squad cannot be augmented while the Scottish Football Association's registration embargo is in place. That will not be lifted until Hearts emerge from administration, although BDO did write to the governing body several weeks ago asking for its removal. That request was denied.

The Foundation of Hearts, a coalition of supporters groups, is waiting to complete the purchase of HOMFC plc, but the transaction cannot be completed until agreement is reached with administrators in Lithuania, where two bankrupt companies own major shareholdings. Hearts' administrators sought to make contact with the Lithuanian counterparts yesterday, to no avail, and it remains likely to be the end of January at the earliest before any further progress is made. In the meantime, Locke has vowed to continue in his position, however challenging it becomes.

"Of course I'm up for the battle," the manager said after Sunday's defeat. "It's very difficult, because we've put out a side that is very young but I still feel they should be doing better than they did in the first 45 minutes. We're up against it, the gap is getting bigger, we need to do better at Tynecastle."