Liam Boyce fit for Hearts trip to St Johnstone but two players likely to miss out
Goalscoring hero against Rangers recovers from quad muscle knock
Liam Boyce has recovered from a quad muscle knock and will be in Hearts' squad for Saturday's trip to St Johnstone. However, Michael Smith and Aaron Hickey are again expected to be missing.
Boyce has resumed training at Riccarton after his debut winning goal in Sunday's 2-1 win against Rangers and the Hearts manager Daniel Stendel wants him to lead the forward line in Perth.
Hickey and Smith may both need another week to recover fully from minor knocks sustained against Airdrie earlier this month. "I think Hickey and Smith will not be back for the weekend. Boyce has trained so I think it's no problem," Stendel told the Evening News.
"I hope next week is a different situation for Hickey and Smith. It is not 100 per cent clear yet so maybe not against Kilmarnock but I hope after that they will be available.
"Smith still has groin pain and he has not trained with the team. I think he needs a little bit of time. We expect he will be able to train next week.
"Hickey is very similar. He had a scan this week and we will look after him. He is a young player and an important player so we will give him time to recover and then give us his best performances."
Boyce's impact was immediate at Tynecastle last weekend and Stendel admitted he was slightly taken aback by the Northern Irishman. "I expected that he could help us quickly but Sunday was also a little bit of a surprise for me," he said.
"Normally you think a new player needs a little bit of time if he can train with the team more, but you could see Boyce's experience. You saw how players next to him improved with him on the pitch."
Hearts have not won a league match at McDiarmid Park since November 2010 but Stendel feels his side are confident. The Rangers victory was their fourth successive fixture without defeat as they try to move off the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
"It is important we keep our confidence after the first three games in 2020. We have to show the same mentality as we did on Sunday. This is important for every game. With our quality, we have a chance to win this match," said the manager.