Ten-man Inverness, who had been numerically disadvantaged for most of the second half, went on to win and, as a result, moved up to third place.
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A vocal section of the home support – who had chanted “You don’t know what you’re doing” when he replaced the Finn – demanded Johnston’s resignation but he has no intention of quitting.
“It is part and parcel of football,” he said. “You get it as a player and you get it as a manager. You’ve got to make sure you respond in the right manner to prove people wrong.
“Regarding Eremenko, it was the last 20 minutes of the game and I was looking to freshen things up. I was trying to get a bit more legs in the team.
“But, looking back, it was probably the wrong decision to take him off.”
The visitors had mastered the conditions (driving sleet, swirling wind, fast surface) better than their hosts and Billy McKay was thwarted by Mark Connolly’s perfectly-timed block just as he was about to pull the trigger from six yards.
Rather less well-timed was the reckless lunge from David Raven, which cleaned out Killie midfielder Craig Slater and earned a caution.
His team-mate, Lee Miller, was also booked for complaining too loudly and too long about the
challenge, although his offence seemed a good deal less serious.
A venomous 25-yarder from Eremenko was on target until Josh Meekings literally put his head on the line to divert it for a corner.
The home side had gradually eased their way into this contest and Ross Draper was shown a yellow card for a cynical foul on Josh Magennis.
Immediately after the restart, Inverness found themselves a goal behind and a man down.
Raven saw red after bringing down Magennis, who had lost control of Rory McKenzie’s through ball. The Irishman, without a goal for almost three months, appeared to have won the argument with Eremenko to take the penalty but Johnston intervened to insist that the midfielder take the award and he converted low to Dean Brill’s right.
Five minutes later Brill could only push a McKenzie shot straight to Magennis on the edge of the six-yard box but he headed over and his regret deepened almost immediately when Inverness drew level.
McKay collected a punt upfield from Ross Draper before chipping Lee Ashcroft with his right foot and then firing, left-footed, behind Craig Samson.
Samson then denied Tansey again but Inverness won it due to some dilatory defending from the home side. McKay – who revealed afterwards that extending his stay in the Highlands beyond this summer “isn’t what I’m looking to do at the minute” – robbed Mark O’Hara on the half-way line. He then exchanged passes with Nick Ross and, while Kilmarnock’s rearguard collided with each other, he right-footed low past Samson from 15 yards.
Kilmarnock: Samson, Barbour, Connolly, Ashcroft, Chantler, Slater, O’Hara (Cairney 83), McKenzie, Eremenko (Johnston 70), Magennis, Miller (Muirhead 65). Unused subs: Brennan, Hamill, Westlake, Pascali.
Inverness CT: Brill, Raven, Warren, Meekings, Tremarco, Draper, Shinnie, Ross (Christie 84), Tansey, Doran (Williams 62), McKay. Unused subs: Esson, Devine, Horner, Polworth.
Referee: Don Robertson. Attendance: 2,793.
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