CELTIC endured more than a few anxious moments before getting their defence of the League Cup underway with a narrow victory over a Raith Rovers side who could conceivably have caused a shock if they had been more clinical up front.

A Kris Commons effort midway through the first half had nosed Ronny Deila’s side ahead against their lower league rivals – but they struggled to kill the stuffy visitors off until a few minutes from the end.

When Stefan Johansen turned Lewis Toshney, advanced up the park and slotted past Kevin Cuthbert to make the scoreline 2-0 the sighs of relief from the home supporters around the stadium were audible.

“It was difficult because they (Raith) gave 110 per cent,” said Celtic manager Ronny Deila. “Sometimes it’s easy to get a little bit lazy, but the players worked for 90 minutes and kept up the pressure. We could have scored more, but to keep another clean sheet was very important.

“But at 1-0 anything can happen. They had a few chances at the end and they deserve a lot of credit for all their hard work and the fact they defended very well. However, I am happy with the win and I think we deserved it."

Deila fielded several of his first team regulars with captain Scott Brown joined in the starting line-up by Commons, Craig Gordon, Johansen and Gary Mackay-Steven. Efe Ambrose, Tyler Blackett, Nadir Ciftci, Saidy Janko and Callum McGregor were all given run-outs. Elsewhere, young Kieran Tierney, aged just 18, made only his third start.

The Celtic defence, therefore, comprised Janko at right back, Ambrose and Blackett at centre half and Tierney at left back. Their opponents may have been from the division below, but seasoned watchers of the home team, this season especially, will have felt trepidatious when they saw the team selection.

“It is always difficult when you change so many players and their positions," said Deila. "They have to get a new relationship. We could have played it quicker and had more movement in the final third of the pitch. If you make changes it can be difficult to get it going. But individually I thought they players were good and their attitude on the whole was good.”

The visitors created the first real scoring chance of the night in the 13th minute when Grant Anderson nodded on a clearance from goalkeeper Cuthbert. Gordon did well to block a goal-bound shot from Craig Wighton with his outstretched arm.

Celtic suffered a shock defeat at the same stage of this competition to third tier rivals Morton two seasons ago after Deila’s predecessor Neil Lennon had rested many of his best players. Wighton’s early attempt gave Raith hope they could also cause an upset.

Johansen dropped back into the centre of midfield alongside Brown in the absence of Nir Bitton and Commons moved into his favoured berth just behind lone striker Ciftci in the 4-2-3-1 formation which Deila favours.

The former Scotland internationalist’s lack of game time this term has been perplexing. On many of the occasions he has been involved, too, he has been featured on the right flank. He relished the move infield and opened the scoring with an impressive long-range strike in the 32nd minute.

Commons received the ball from McGregor – who performed with energy and enthusiasm throughout his time on the park and will have given his manager much to ponder with his lively display – and jinked past Kyle Benedictus before unleashing a left foot shot beyond Cuthbert. His effort pleased his manager.

“Kris has been playing well for a while now,” said Deila. “There is more to come from him, but he will always create chances and score goals. He did that tonight and it was good to see.”

Ray McKinnon’s side squandered an excellent chance to level the match after 58 minutes after Jason Thomson launched the ball into the Celtic area with a throw-in. Mark Stewart headed the ball down to Ross Matthews who volleyed it over the crossbar.

Deila needed to make changes to help his side carve out an opening and he made a double substitution in 66 minutes. Tom Rogic and James Forrest came on for Commons and McGregor respectively. But the replacements were unable to create a chance for their side to capitalise on or net themselves.

Gary Mackay-Steven had two attempts in rapid succession after receiving the ball in dangerous positions in the final from first Brown and then Rogic. He snatched the first one wide and then saw his second well saved by Cuthbert.

He turned provider shortly after that after making a powerful run and teeing up Rogic. The Australian was no more clinical than his team mate and curled a shot wide.

Matthews was withdrawn after being booked for a challenge on Brown and replaced by Ryan McCord, Mitchell Megginson took over from Grant Anderson and Iain Davidson made way for Jon Daly. The latter, a former Rangers player, received a fairly frosty reception from the home support when he took to the field.

The Irishman had a chance to level in the 83rd minute after being supplied by James Craigen. He only had Gordon to beat, but his shot drifted wide of the goal. He would rue that near thing just four minutes later when Celtic scored their second.

The Scottish champions will continue to speak to Carlton Cole, the former England striker who is training at Lennoxtown this week, about a move. This outing showed the need to increased their firepower.

Celtic: Gordon; Janko, Ambrose, Blackett, Tierney; Brown, Johansen; McGregor (Forrest, 66), Commons (Rogic, 66), Mackay-Steven; Ciftci (Nesbitt, 89)

Substitutes not used: Bailly, Lustig, Stokes, Izaguirre.

Raith Rovers: Cuthbert, Thomson, Benedictus, Toshney, McKeown, Anderson (Megginson, 79), Davidson (Daly, 80), Matthews (McCord, 79), Craigen, Wighton, Stewart

Substitutes not used: Laidlaw, Petrie, Ellis, Mackie.

Booked: Matthews, Toshney.

Referee: John McKendrick.

Attendance: 13,591.