Scottish-based Kenyan striker inspires St Mirren's pursuit of third place in Scottish Premiership

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STARS ABROAD Scottish-based Kenyan striker inspires St Mirren's pursuit of third place in Scottish Premiership

Festus Chuma 14:06 - 22.12.2023

Kenyan striker Jonah Ayunga spearheads St Mirren's push for third place against Hearts in the Scottish Premiership showdown.

Kenyan forward Jonah Ayunga is set to spearhead St Mirren's offensive assault against Hearts this Saturday at Tynecastle Park. 

With only a goal difference separating the two teams on the Scottish Premiership table, a victory would not only secure bragging rights but also a crucial advantage in the fiercely competitive league.

Ayunga, who recently celebrated impending fatherhood and netted his first goal of the season in a triumphant 2-0 victory over Ross County, is emerging from a challenging 10-month injury hiatus.

Although he could not find the back of the net in a recent goalless draw with Motherwell, his resurgence is a welcome tonic for St Mirren, who endured a tough spell marked by three consecutive away defeats.

Meanwhile, Hearts halted their two-match losing streak in remarkable fashion by becoming one of only two teams to defeat Celtic this season in the Scottish Premiership.

First-half goals from Lawrence Shankland and Stephen Kingsley, combined with an impressive defensive display, propelled them past the best-attacking team in the league.

This victory propelled Hearts past St Mirren in the table, and they are now determined to solidify their third-place position as they trail second-placed Rangers by 14 points. 

The focus for Hearts is to exert as much pressure as possible during the hectic winter period, but they acknowledge the need to improve their attacking quality, as no top-half team has scored fewer goals.

St Mirren, on the other hand, will aim to replicate their earlier season success against Hearts when they secured a victory. Such a triumph would allow them to leapfrog their rivals in the standings. However, St Mirren must address their inconsistency, with only two wins in their last six league matches.

One glaring concern for St Mirren has been their performance in away matches this season, with only two wins on the road in the Scottish Premiership.

Finding the back of the net away from home has also been a challenge, a problem they hope to rectify in this critical encounter.

In contrast to their opponents, who have struggled to score away, St Mirren has managed to find the net in only one of their previous four matches. This issue may necessitate a more extended period of work and improvement.

Hearts, buoyed by their victory against Celtic, may keep their starting lineup largely intact, with Jorge Grant, Nathaniel Atkinson, Alan Forrest, and Aidan Denholm all hoping to retain their places. However, injuries to Cammy Devlin and Liam Boyce could pose challenges for the Jambos.

St Mirren, following their goalless draw against Motherwell, might contemplate making changes in their attacking setup, with Alex Grieve and Mikael Mandron in consideration. 

However, injuries to Ryan Strain and Ryan Flynn, along with Caolan Boyd-Munce's absence last weekend, raise concerns for the visitors.

Jonah Ayunga, the 26-year-old Kenyan forward, who extended his stay at St Mirren until the summer of 2025, is eager to continue his remarkable journey.

Having already expressed his desire to represent Harambee Stars in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Ayunga's performance against Hearts could further his chances of earning a call-up to the Kenyan national squad.

St Mirren possible starting lineup: Hemming; Gogic, Taylor, Fraser; Small, Baccus, O'Hara, Kiltie, Grieve; Ayunga, Nachmani

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