Prince Buaben is doubtful for Hearts’ first post-split match against Partick Thistle at Tynecastle next weekend due to a groin injury. He has been unable to train this week but management are hopeful he will resume training at some point next week.
Although the problem is not serious, it could prevent Buaben continuing his impressive form in the centre of Hearts’ back four. Head coach Ian Cathro may need to rejig his defence again after moving Buaben back from midfield and seeing only one goal conceded in the last three matches.
The Ghanaian suffered the injury in last Friday’s goalless draw with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park and was forced off early in the second half.
“It’s the area of his groin around his adductor,” Cathro told the Evening News. “It’s not a major issue, probably a grade-one situation. We expect him to be training with us at some point next week. We just need to go gradually and manage it properly, but we don’t consider it a long-term issue.”
Cathro went on to praise Buaben’s recent contribution in defence, adding: “Prince gives different qualities defensively. He’s been clear-minded and given some calmness to the team. He’s helped us with possession and he’s defended well.
“We’re pleased with his contribution in the last couple of games and we’ll look forward to having him available for training with the group next week.”
With Callum Paterson, John Souttar, Aaron Hughes and Lennard Sowah all sidelined due to various injuries recently, Cathro is rightly reluctant to lose another member of his defence.
“We just hope everybody can get themselves back and available so we start to have options again in that area of the pitch,” he said. “We’ve had to make some adjustments and create some solutions in that area given what’s happened. I’m just looking forward to getting everybody available.
“It is a fact that we’ve had to adjust a couple of times in that centre-back area for a couple of different reasons. No-one foresaw the injury to John in the match against Celtic. That changed a lot. Immediately, we were putting a lot of stress and strain on Aaron and Tasos Avlonitis, who hadn’t played a lot in the months beforehand.
“It put a little bit of stress on an area of the team that we weren’t expecting to have, but these things happen. We need to manage it and go forward.”