HE'S glad to be back but Anthony Barness knows he can't take anything for granted under Sam Allardyce's 'horses for courses' policy.

The Londoner was a surprise inclusion at Crystal Palace, taking over from Leam Richardson, who had acquitted himself well in the previous four games with his spirited performances.

Barness impressed in the Selhurst Park win and subsequently against Crewe and Norwich but he knows better than to assume he'll keep his place - not with Richardson ready to step back in and Dean Holden champing at the bit after proving his fitness in the reserves.

And especially not with Allardyce prepared to ring the changes to keep minds alert, bodies fresh and tactics varied.

"They think a lot more about the game here," Barness says, comparing Allardyce's squad rotation strategy with the regime at Charlton where last season Alan Curbishley found a winning formula and was able to stick to it, relatively free of injuries, for long spells.

"There wasn't much change in the team with the same players, give or take, going out every week and doing the same thing.

"Here they think about different tactics and the way they are going to play.

"I didn't have any idea I was going to play last Monday against Palace so it was a nice surprise and things went all right."

Barness' delight in being back in the reckoning as the season reaches a nail-biting climax follows a winter of discontent for the versatile defender whose senior appearances between the November 18 win at Norwich and his surprise recall at Selhurst Park were restricted to FA Cup ties, when first team regulars were rested, plus a couple of substitute appearances.

"It's difficult when you're not involved," he admits, "and I wasn't involved or sub for quite a few games.

"I got a bit despondent but all you can do is try and keep your fitness up so that when you do get the chance you can last 90 minutes and do a good job.

"You feel like an outsider sometimes. You come in when there's been good results and good performances but, when you're not a part of it, you don't have the same feeling of 'team' and 'bond'. It's quite difficult but you've got to keep going because you know you've always got a chance.

"I've just had as many games in six days as I had in the previous six months ... and it's gone quite well. It was just a shame at Crewe that we didn't get the three points - we definitely should have won that one.

"Now when you see how tight it is, it makes it so much more frustrating that we have thrown so many points away. We know we've let ourselves down but we've just got to make sure we don't do that again over the last three games."