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St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson is ‘hopeful’ that injured striker Jonah Ayunga will return to action before Christmas.

The forward suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury during a match against Motherwell in January and has spent the last nine months on the sidelines.

However, the Englishman is now back in training and is nearing a return to competitive football. His manager Stephen Robinson said:

“We’re hopeful that it’ll be before that (Christmas), but I don’t want to put times on it, I don’t want to rush him. We’ve got a fully fit squad outwith Jonah, so it certainly isn’t panic stations.

“I’ll be guided by Gerry (physio) and Gary (strength and conditioning coach) and when they tell me he’s ready we will be delighted to have him back into our selection problems.

“Jonah played his first 45 minutes of competitive football for a long time and scored in a bounce game here at the training ground.

“So, we’re delighted for him, he came through that unscathed but he’s still a long way away from (full fitness). We need minutes and game time. I’ve got the best physio around in Gerry Docherty and Gerry will tell me when he’s ready to play.

“I brought him in straight after the game, he was absolutely buzzing with it, we were all buzzing for him and to tell him that the honeymoon is over and now the real work starts. That’s just the reality of football but as I say he’s worked hard, and we feel he will be a big part going forward once we get the minutes in his legs and he’s 100% ready to go.”

Ayunga netted seven goals and supplied three assists in his first six months at the club before injury ruled him out for the second half of last season.

He was rewarded with a new contract in September, keeping him at the club until the summer of 2025. However, the Buddies boss will not rush him back into the squad. He added:

“There are certain things we have to tick first, I want Jonah for the long-term, not for 2 games. I’m very much guided by the medical side of it. We’re delighted with him; he’s been in training every day. He’s had no reaction, but we need minutes in his legs, and we’ll get that over the coming weeks.

“He will be like a new signing for us when he comes back, he scored a very good goal, we know what he brings to us.

“From Christmas onward he’s going to be a huge part of what we do in the coming weeks and months.

“He signed a new contract with us, the board were excellent in showing faith in what I thought was a very good player for us and taking a little bit of a leap of faith in terms of where he was with his injury. Jonah was delighted to sign so hopefully for all parties that will be a very good decision.”

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