Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes praised his players for displaying both ‘fire and ice’ in a vital 2-0 victory over Livingston which lifted them out of the cinch Premiership relegation zone.
After a tense and goalless first half at Rugby Park, the home side secured all three points thanks to Kyle Vassell’s opener and a Danny Armstrong penalty awarded after a VAR check on handball against Livingston midfielder Jason Holt.
Kilmarnock are now in 10th place in the table, three points above bottom club Dundee United and just two points behind ninth-placed St Johnstone who they host next Saturday.
“We spoke at half-time about the need for calm,” said McInnes. “It’s that thing about fire and ice – you want to be passionate and show you’re motivated, whilst also being calm.
“We were too nervy and too agitated in the first half. It was frantic and we didn’t have enough composure in the game.
“Our passes forward needed to be more measured into our strikers. Getting the goal at the start of the second half really settled everyone down. You could feel it in the whole stadium.
“Livingston are a tough team to play against when you know you need a result. They are really compact and pick up a lot of scraps and second balls.
“They can make you nervous with how hard they work – but I wanted my players to outwork Livingston. If we could do that, we knew it’d give us a chance.
“We got the break from VAR with the penalty. That’s probably one of the first breaks we’ve had from VAR.
“I wasn’t actually sure if it was a penalty. I thought it hit the boy’s shoulder. But the fourth official said to me it was a penalty. At 2-0, you then started to see the confidence coming back.”
Livingston manager David Martindale was unhappy with his players as they slumped to a seventh consecutive away defeat without scoring a goal.
“Our away form since the turn of the year has been nothing short of horrific,” said Martindale.
“I have changed the shape and the personnel but we are not getting the winning formula. I would have happily walked away from here at half-time with a 0-0.
“We then lose a stupid goal and a penalty which is a penalty all day long. We speak about it all the time but players still throw their hands in the air.
“We only have ourselves to blame as we are not doing the basics at both ends of the park. It is definitely a confidence issue but we need to dig deep and get it back.”