Hearts pinpoint a return date for Beni Baningime
After five weeks out with a knee injury, Hearts hope to welcome midfielder Beni Baningime back in their first game after the Premiership’s winter break.
The Congolese has been provisionally put down for a return against St Johnstone on January 18 having been absent since the win over St Mirren on November 27.
Baningime opened up his knee towards the end of that match and has been recovering at Riccarton in the intervening period. He missed matches against Celtic, Livingston, Rangers, Dundee and Ross County.
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson told the Evening News: “I'm hoping Baningime will be fine for the St Johnstone game on the 18th. The original plan was to have him back for the Scottish Cup game [against Auchinleck Talbot] on the 22nd. St Johnstone is a few days earlier but we would hope to have him back for that.”
Top goalscorer Liam Boyce is also expected back for that match after a calf problem ruled him out of the Dundee and Ross County fixtures. A decision to bring forward the Premiership’s three-week winter break allows the Northern Irishman time to rest and recuperate.
Neilson explained that he was not willing to risk such a key player. “Boycie's calf tweaked again late last week. He was back training and doing a bit of running, then he just felt a wee bit of a twinge. We decided there was no point in risking him against Ross County last week.
“I would think that, with this three-and-a-half-week break, he should be bang on it coming back in.”