Winger Danny Armstrong hopes Kilmarnock’s dominant Scottish Premiership victory over Livingston, which ended a seven-game winless run, can be “the catalyst” for a top-six finish.
Armstrong continued his impressive start to the season by drilling the hosts in front at Rugby Park via a deflection off Sean Kelly, who levelled 19 minutes later against the run of play by netting his third penalty in as many games.
But Kilmarnock restored their advantage just before the break, Armstrong turning provider with a wide free-kick cushioned in by the head of captain Kyle Vassell.
In a one-sided second half, Vassell added his second and his side’s third – moments after hitting the bar with a back-post effort – by glancing another superb header into far corner.
“This season we need to dream bigger,” Armstrong told BBC Scotland. “We completed our first challenge of getting out of the Championship, then it was to stay in the Premiership last season.
“Top six needs to be our aim now, it’s where a club of this stature needs to be and everyone’s going to do as much as we can to be in in there come the end of the season.”
The victory, Kilmarnock’s first in the league since the opening day of the season, lifts Derek McInnes’ side four places to fifth, while Livingston drop to seventh.
Aside from late efforts by Danny Lloyd and James Penrice, this was a display lacking attacking inspiration from David Martindale’s men, whose only shot on target was Kelly’s spot-kick, awarded after Brad Lyons caught Mohammed Sangare while trying to clear the ball.
Player of the match – Danny Armstrong (Kilmarnock)
Armstrong shines again as Livi miss Obileye – analysis
It is difficult to think of a more complete performance from McInnes’ Kilmarnock since their top-flight promotion last year.
The Rugby Park boss hoped the inclusion of Liam Polworth would bring composure to his side in possession, and so it proved as the hosts dominated for the majority of the contest.
In Armstrong, the Ayrshire side boated the second-highest chance creator in the league prior to kick-off. The winger backed that up with another stellar display, ending the day with a fourth goal and a sixth assist in 15 games this term.
McInnes also spoke of the need to recruit a clinical number nine during the summer, but on the basis of this performance he could already have one as Vassell made two goals from four touches in the Livingston box.
Meanwhile, Martindale will be disappointed his side could not build on an impressive win over Motherwell a fortnight ago, especially given their impressive form in this fixture.
Without Ayo Obileye in the centre of defence, the away side struggled with balls into the box, while at the other end their attacking play was non-existent for much of the game.
What they said
Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes: “I thought we started strong in the game. We expected a tough match and knew we would have to do a lot of different aspects well, and I thought we did that.
“What pleased me most was the response to the Livingston penalty – it was immediate and we set out to win the game. We’re fifth in the league and we want to hang about the top six for as long as we can.”
Livingston manager David Martindale: “I don’t think we deserved anything from the game. Vassell was the best player on the park and bullied us at times.
“Their back three managed the game a lot better than our back three. I don’t think we won enough aerial duels or second balls. At this level you have to do better than we did.”
Livingston welcome Dundee to West Lothian in the Premiership next Saturday (15:00 BST) before Kilmarnock host Aberdeen at Rugby Park the following day (12:00).
- 11ArmstrongSubstituted forKennedyat 81′minutes
- 12WatsonBooked at 38minsSubstituted forDonnellyat 81′minutes
- 8LyonsBooked at 50mins
- 31PolworthSubstituted forDallasat 90+1′minutes
- 9VassellSubstituted forMcKenzieat 81′minutes
- 23de Lucas
- 5DevlinBooked at 38mins
- 11MackaySubstituted forGuthrieat 58′minutes
- 18HoltSubstituted forMontañoat 64′minutes
- 8PittmanSubstituted forBradleyat 64′minutes
- 20SangareSubstituted forShinnieat 79′minutes
- 9AndersonSubstituted forLloyd-McGoldrickat 79′minutes
- Craig Napier
Match ends, Kilmarnock 3, Livingston 1.
Second Half ends, Kilmarnock 3, Livingston 1.
Foul by Rory McKenzie (Kilmarnock).
Cristian Montaño (Livingston) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. James Penrice (Livingston) left footed shot from the left side of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Cristian Montaño.
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Andrew Dallas replaces Liam Polworth.
Attempt missed. Danny Lloyd (Livingston) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left from a direct free kick.
Foul by Marley Watkins (Kilmarnock).
Joel Nouble (Livingston) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Luiyi de Lucas (Livingston) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Danny Lloyd with a headed pass.
Foul by Brad Lyons (Kilmarnock).
Steven Bradley (Livingston) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Liam Donnelly (Kilmarnock) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Kurtis Guthrie (Livingston).
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Matthew Kennedy replaces Daniel Armstrong.
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Liam Donnelly replaces David Watson.
Substitution, Kilmarnock. Rory McKenzie replaces Kyle Vassell.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Livingston. Danny Lloyd replaces Bruce Anderson.
Substitution, Livingston. Andrew Shinnie replaces Mohammed Sangare because of an injury.