THERE is a case to be made for the Celtic defence but all video evidence from Fir Park on Saturday should probably be deemed inadmissable. While an early trundler from Wes Fletcher did at least dirty Craig Gordon's gloves on the day, it said it all about the most low key of Scottish football occasions that the closest Motherwell came to threatening the visitors' goal was with the errant slash of Efe Ambrose's left boot which sent the ball soaring wildly a foot or so over the top corner.

While a back four of Ambrose, Dedryck Boyata, Tyler Blackett and Emilio Izaguirre strolled through this match, it seems far fetched to expect them to get through Thursday night in Molde similarly unmolested. Their afternoon was made significantly easier by an approach from the home side, under the new management of Mark McGhee, which looked adventurous on paper but in practice turned out to be anything but. With converted central defender Louis Laing displaying his inexperience in midfield, and seasoned figures such as Scott McDonald and Lionel Ainsworth kept in reserve till late in the game, Blackett and Boyata spent most of their respective afternoons on the halfway line, unhurriedly picking out constructive forward passes.

They may not be the new Virgil van Dijk and Jason Denayer just yet but having started Celtic's last two matches in his preferred role as a left-sided centre half, Blackett would dearly love the chance to continue in that position in Norway on Thursday night, presumably alongside Boyata. While Croatian central defender Jozo Simunovic returns to full training today, it is fully a month since either he or Charlie Mulgrew saw any competitive action and it would clearly be a risk to throw either straight back into the fray. While defensive weaknesses have undermined Celtic's continental campaign so far, there is something to be said for a settled back four and Blackett feels this somewhat makeshift grouping can be trusted in the meeting with the surprise leaders of Europa League Group A.

"I am comfortable there [at centre half]," said Blackett. "I have played left back previously but I played at centre back all of last season and have more experience playing in there. Obviously it has been difficult for the defence when we have not had a set back four. We need time to get used to each other and get used to how each other plays. But once we get that I am sure the results will improve and the performances will improve.

"It [Molde] is a big game for the club, we are trying to get the points in Europe as well as we are in the league," he added. "We have got to try to push on, replicate the performance we had against Motherwell and get a result in the end. It is a chance to go and perform and try to improve on the performances we have had so far. We have tried to do bits in training, individually and as a team. So we are trying to do our best, trying to improve everyday."

As straightforward a day as Celtic's defenders had, their supporters were unable to sit entirely comfortably until the final whistle. That owed as much to a couple of eccentric pieces of refereeing from Alan Muir than anything else. Concluding that Kieran Kennedy had got something on the ball when he confronted Scott Brown in the box was a judgement call which was just about forgivable, but somehow missing the same player's volleyball move to deny Nadir Ciftci an open goal certainly wasn't.

Suffice to say we would be hearing a lot more about both incidents were it not for the fact that the one goal Ciftci did manage was sufficient to win the day. The Turk gave his manager something to think about ahead of the meeting with Molde when he tucked the ball away confidently, some 15 minutes in, after Connor Ripley could only parry Kris Common's sharp effort on the turn into traffic. Moments of skill from Commons punctuated this performance, the 32-year-old hitting woodwork twice and forcing at least one fine save from Ripley, while skipper Scott Brown shrugged off an ankle issue to take his usual iron grip on midfield.

The arrivals of substitutes McDonald, Ainsworth and Dom Thomas improve Motherwell and Keith Lasley will surely return to the fray before long also. The club have a week's worth of training to iron out a few wrinkles under their new manager before taking on Aberdeen next weekend and Stephen McManus feels positive about the new regime.

“I don’t think Scott or Las were necessarily dropped," said McManus. "They will come back. Las has a long time ahead of him. Whether it is at this club or not, he has a lot to bring to the table - he’s one of the most underrated players I’ve played with. Scott will come back. He wasn’t in the team but made an impact when he came on. Guys like that just come straight back and will be pushing to get back in the side. We are going to need everybody. It’s up to the full squad to kick on and get us going.”

While Motherwell dropped to tenth, and found themselves just one point out of the play-off spots at this early season stage due to Partick Thistle's win in Perth, Celtic ended the weekend two points clear at the top. Dodgy defence or not, they will take some catching.