KILMARNOCK took a massive three Cinch Championship points as they saw off Inverness with a 1-0 win that was more comfortable than the scoreline would suggest.

Kyle Lafferty announced his return to Ayrshire with a fine ninth minute goal that set the tone for an afternoon when Kilmarnock looked menacing throughout. Derek McInnes’ side are now unbeaten since he assumed managerial control of the club last month.

The win puts them within a point of league leaders Arbroath and tees up an intriguing clash between the teams this Friday night at Gayfield. Encouraged by what he has seen so far since taking over, McInnes has maintained that this Rugby Park side will approach the game with optimism as they seek to hammer home their promotion credentials in the latter half of the campaign.

“We have not won these big games against the teams round about us but we need to believe that we can go to Arbroath and win,” he said. “It will be a great game.

“There have been a lot of plaudits for Arbroath and we are aware of their strengths and capabilities but we see this game now as an opportunity for us.

“The main priority was to win the game [against Inverness] and the players showed real resolve. I don’t think Zach Hemming has had a real save to make but we should have picked Inverness off. We were a bit wasteful.”

Lafferty could have had more than one after dragging an effort wide before he went off in the second period with a back complaint. Oli Shaw and Rory McKenzie too came close while Euan Murray had an effort chalked off as Kilmarnock looked by far the more menacing of the two sides.

Billy Dodds’ frustration showed during the game and his afternoon was summed up in the closing stages as substitute Joe Hardy stayed on his feet after a nudge in the box when going to ground may have given referee Don Robertson something to think about.

But now on a run of games that stretches to six without a win, his irritation was more than just a late flashpoint in the game. Inverness are now two points behind Kilmarnock and three behind Arbroath having played a game more than both.

The performance in Ayrshire was significantly short of a team chasing promotion.

“In the first-half two or three of our players didn’t believe,” he said. “They didn’t believe we had the personnel to win the Championship.

“I said we needed to match Killie’s energy. We gave the ball away and we can’t adjust and then we end up picking the ball up out of our net. That’s two or three occasions that same scenario has happened this season.

“At half-time I said to them that there were 2 or 3 of them letting us down and they needed to stand up and be a man. We pushed to try and get equaliser but it wasn’t to be. They took their chance and we didn’t.

“I thought Joe Hardy should have gone down but he tried to be honest and stay on his feet. He was bumped as he rounded the keeper and if he goes down then the referee gives it. I said that to him after the game because I know what I would have done in that position.”