Prince Buaben is hitting top form for Hearts because he is finally approaching full fitness, according to head coach Robbie Neilson.
The Ghanaian midfielder delivered a man-of-the-match performance and scored his second goal of the season in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Queen of the South.
Hearts saw the game out comfortably despite an uneasy first half in Dumfries and Buaben was their standout performer. He produced his finest display in a maroon shirt to date, dominating midfield and getting forward to score a vital goal which put the visitors 2-0 ahead just before half-time.
The result maintains Hearts’ six-point lead over Rangers at the top of the Scottish Championship. Neilson explained that Buaben, having missed part of Hearts’ pre-season, is now nearing the kind of condition he needs to be in. That improvement is reflected in his play.
“Prince joined us when we were down in Leigh in July and that was a wee bit into pre-season,” Neilson told the Evening News. “Then he went away for a few days and then came back. He missed a fair bit of pre-season, so it’s taken him a bit of time. He’s working hard and his fitness is getting there. He’s in a similar situation to Soufian El Hassnaoui and Osman Sow. He’s still got a wee bit to go.”
Miguel Pallardo, the Spanish midfielder who arrived as a free agent last month, made his competitive Hearts debut as a substitute 11 minutes from the end on Saturday. By that stage, the game was well won, with Osman Sow and Jordan McGhee goals bookending Buaben’s.
“I’m in a lucky position where I’ve got a very strong squad so I could afford to take Prince off towards the end to protect him a bit because he was on a booking,” explained Neilson. “That gave Miguel an opportunity to come on and play for the first team and I thought he did well. He’s a similar type of player who sits in front of the back four.
“We now gear up to play Alloa this weekend, then it’s Dumbarton and then Hibs. We’ll be looking to win these games and then we have a wee break in the fixtures.”