Key Hearts player to return from injury but doubts over others ahead of St Mirren double header

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Stephen Kingsley is poised to return to Hearts’ squad for Saturday’s Premiership trip to St Mirren following a bout of concussion. However, doubts remain over some of his Riccarton colleagues as they prepare for successive league matches against the Paisley club.

Kingsley missed recent victories over St Johnstone and Hibs after suffering a head knock against Dundee United at Tannadice on Christmas Eve. With concussion protocol observed strictly by Hearts medical staff, the defender should be available this weekend.

“There are a couple coming back,” confirmed Robbie Neilson, the Hearts manager. “We should have Stephen Kingsley back for this weekend, and obviously Stephen Humphrys is back up and running. It was great to see him scoring against Hibs because he brings an added dimension to us with his pace and power.”

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Kingsley may be asked to step back into the starting line-up with Andy Halliday sustaining a head injury against Hibs. He was substituted alongside fellow wing-back Michael Smith.

“Andy was taken off because the doctor went on and said he was looking a bit dazed, so the doc was a bit wary,” explained Neilson. “We didn’t want to take any risks. I’ll need to speak to the medical staff and see where he is. Michael had a wee tight hamstring and we felt, at that point in the game, we couldn’t take a risk with him. We decided to take the two of them off.”

Peter Haring is back running and hopeful of joining full training soon. The Austrian midfielder has been sidelined with recurring symptoms related to his own concussion injury against Aberdeen back in October.

“We are still waiting on Peter,” admitted Neilson. “He is back out running on the pitch, which is good to see. It’s just about building it up slowly now. We have left it with the doctors, medics and Peter himself about when he feels ready to come back into training.

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Winger Gary Mackay-Steven is still recovering from a broken foot but should be back in action before January ends. “The plan is to get him back at some point this month so hopefully we will see him soon,” said Neilson.

Hearts must wait to see if Andy Halliday and Michael Smith are available this weekend.Hearts must wait to see if Andy Halliday and Michael Smith are available this weekend.
Hearts must wait to see if Andy Halliday and Michael Smith are available this weekend.

Hearts have taken ten points from 12 since the World Cup break but Neilson stressed that St Mirren, fifth in the Premiership table, carry a real threat. “We got three points against Kilmarnock, then a point at Tannadice despite a few injuries. We won at St Johnstone for the first time in years and then three points in the derby gives us another lift. We are going into back-to-back games against St Mirren. They are a good team who are well-organised, stuffy and hard to break down. It will be another difficult challenge.

“Winning helps but even when we aren’t winning there is still plenty spirit and drive to do well because we have a group of good characters. They all want to work hard so we just need to keep momentum. When you play for Hearts, it’s about winning the next game. In two weeks’ time, if we haven’t won a game, we won’t get a pat on the back because we won ten points out of 12 after the World Cup break. We need to be ready to win the next one.”