THOSE early-season fears about Kilmarnock's prospects under Allan Johnston seem a long time ago now.
It took the Rugby Park side until mid-October to register their first win of the campaign but the victories since then have arrived, if not exactly in torrents, then in a steady trickle.
This one over a poor Inverness Caledonian Thistle side was as comfortable as any of the five that preceded it and had the effect of lifting Kilmarnock into eighth place in the table, with Hibernian next in their sights. The relegation play-off place remains a danger, but Johnston and his players can also retain realistic ambitions of breaking into the top six before the split.
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A good day for the home support was made better by the sight of Alexei Eremenko back on the Rugby Park pitch, even if it was only to conduct the half-time draw. Talks regarding the Finn returning will continue, with Johnston cautiously hopeful that a deal can be concluded.
"I will speak to Alexei and it will be great if he signs," said the Kilmarnock manager. "The fact that he's here in the first place is a big positive, although that doesn't guarantee anything."
From a position of some promise under previous manager Terry Butcher, Inverness have lost their way under John Hughes, their record reading just one win in seven matches.
This insipid display was watched by new assistant manager Russell Latapy and the man nicknamed the Little Magician will need to have a few tricks up his sleeve if he is going to help arrest Inverness' loss of form, especially with a League Cup semi-final against Hearts next weekend.
Hughes, however, didn't seem overly despondent. "We just switched off," he said. "But in terms of getting on the ball, our passing was very good. Our commitment was fantastic. However, we need to be a little bit more streetwise."
Despite Hughes' assertion to the contrary, it was Kilmarnock who dominated most of the match, the only surprise being they were just one goal up by half-time. It was an effort of some simplicity, Sammy Clingan floating in a tempting free-kick that Lee Ashcroft was able to guide beyond Dean Brill with a cushioned header. That aside, only wasteful finishing let Kilmarnock down. Robbie Muirhead saw a long-range effort repelled, then had another effort crack against the far post, Kris Boyd worked a 1-2 with Rory McKenzie before thudding in a shot that Brill stopped, while Manuel Pascali also headed off target from a decent position.
Inverness barely created a chance of note for striker Billy McKay and when Liam Polworth finally set him up, McKay headed wide. The Highlanders offered more enterprise in the second half but it wasn't to last. They had a good opportunity to draw level when McKay seized upon Ashcroft's misplaced pass but Craig Samson was equal to the striker's shot.
Kilmarnock soon wrested back control of the game and made sure of the win 15 minutes from time. Muirhead was the creator, sliding a pass into Boyd who thumped his shot past Brill. News of the striker's 13th goal of the season may increase interest in him before the transfer window closes but his manager hopes he will hang around. "We can't afford to lose someone like Boydy," added Johnston. "He's such a big player for us."
Boyd being Boyd later missed an easier chance to add to his tally - skewing a shot wide after being teed up by McKenzie - but it didn't matter as Kilmarnock claimed another scalp.
"I thought we started well and controlled the match," said Johnston. "It was a great team performance."