LEWIS Montrose has admitted that he never felt frozen out at York City despite going 15 games without a start.
The 25-year-old midfielder was given a surprise recall to the Minstermen's first XI in place of Adam Reed for Monday's 1-0 home win over Bury.
That decision saw Montrose kick off a game for the first time since the end of January when he received a two-match suspension for reaching ten bookings this term.
In the intervening period, the former Gillingham and Wycombe midfielder was restricted to seven, second-half cameo appearances off the bench but, on his return to City's starting line-up, Montrose was quick to highlight the manner in which manager Nigel Worthington keeps every squad member involved and motivated.
He said: "Even when I wasn't playing, I still felt part of the team. We are a squad and the people on the bench - the players, management and staff - are one unit.
"We are all here to move the club forward and the manager is very good at keeping everybody together. Nobody is ahead of anybody else here and, if you are on the bench, you are still part of things."
Now he is back in the team, though, Montrose is determined to hold on to his place as City hope to, first, book their play-off spot and, then, compete for promotion.
"The team has been doing well but the manager told me I would be playing on Sunday and I was very happy to be playing again and to play a small part in the win," he added. "I have had to wait for my time but I got my chance.
"I want to play games like any footballer because that's your stage. Training is good but it's really all about games.
"That's where you get recognition and, hopefully, I can stay in the team now."
Montrose also hailed City's team spirit after the battling victory over Bury, pointing out that a save from Nick Pope and goal-line clearance from John McCombe were equally as significant as Keith Lowe's fifth-minute goal.
The 6ft 3in midfielder argued: "It was a great three points, especially at this stage of the season and everyone was fantastic. Everybody was fighting for each other and putting their bodies on the line.
"Popey made a great save and John made a match-winning block so it was great that we scored but getting blocks in at the other end can be just as important."
City now know a victory over Newport at Bootham Crescent on Saturday will secure a Sky Bet League Two play-off place but Montrose insists the Minstermen must only concentrate on reproducing the form that has helped the team go 15 matches undefeated.
He said: "Newport are a very good team but it's just another game in which we have got to keep doing what we have been doing. We've just got to keep ticking off the games with wins, put everything into them and see where that takes us."
Montrose is also hoping the players will be cheered on by another big crowd this weekend.
Bootham Crescent's largest gate of the season - 5,225 - turned up for the Bury match with the Manchester-born battler adding: "Any player wants to play in front of as many people as possible. It's great and the more the merrier."