Livingston slid out of the top six, to be replaced by their opponents. They could have had few complaints about the result because, in spite of a late rally which might have seen them rescue a point, they were outplayed for long spells of this match.
That infuriated manager Gary Holt, who lambasted his players for not equalling the focus and application they brought to bear in beating Celtic in their previous outing.
“We spoke after the Celtic win about how people are going to look at you and question you and they’ve certainly opened themselves up to a bit of flak now,” he said.
“You can have a look at things; were they too cocky? Were they thinking because they won the last game they can just turn up? I certainly didn’t and my staff certainly didn’t.
“We prepared them right and we gave two soft goals away and I feel for my ‘keeper because he’s not had a save to make and he’s lost two goals; we need to get back to basics of defending our box.”
Livingston striker Lyndon Dykes was presented with a scoring opportunity inside the opening 30 seconds when Alan Power released the Australian with a passback intended for Stephen O’Donnell. Perhaps it was too early in the game for him but Dykes, who had a straight run in on Laurentiu Branescu’s goal, was slow to react and his procrastination allowed Stuart Findlay to clear.
Apart from an unsuccessful Eamonn Brophy appeal for a penalty-kick (when the forward appeared to go to ground far too easily under pressure from Ricki Lamie), nothing else of interest took place during a turgid first half until Kilmarnock drew first blood six minutes before the break.
On this occasion Lamie did impede Brophy and Chris Burke’s free-kick from the touchline was allowed to travel all the way to home captain Gary Dicker, who displayed impressive technique (something of a collector’s item yesterday) to get over the ball and send a powerful half-volley behind Matija Sarkic and inside his left-hand post.
Rory McKenzie claimed what proved to be the decisive goal with a shot which took a wicked deflection off Nicky Devlin on its way behind Sarkic, although Devlin played his part in Livingston’s consolation goal, providing the low cross from which substitute Lee Miller sidefooted home.
Marvin Bartley had forced a fine save from Branescu and also struck the crossbar with a header but Killie held out to move up to fifth place and manager Angelo Alessio displayed an mixture of happiness and relief afterwards.
“I am happy because we deserved to win the match,” he said. “We suffered for the first 30 minutes and we needed Gary Dicker’s opening goal – that was important for us.
“We were much better in the second half and scored another goal, although we had a worry at the end because Livingston are very physical and they work hard on throw-ins and corners.
“The big disappointment was not that we didn’t keep another clean sheet but that we gave them such a cheap goal. If we had been more focused, we wouldn’t have conceded. That can happen in the game but, in the end, the most important thing was the result.
“Everyone was pleased at the end because we won but we need to work harder in training because I believe we can play better than this. I am pleased with the progress we have made but we can improve further and we need to do that because there were a lot of mistakes made today, especially in the first 30 minutes – and not just by certain players but by everyone.
“We can do better than that and we have to continue doing that because every game is tough. The fans were behind us again and that is important because together we are building our season.”