Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has urged his fringe players to show him their desire as the fight intensifies for first-team places at Pittodrie.
The Dons manager had a substitutes’ bench of players featuring more than 1,800 first-team appearances between them for Saturday’s 4-0 win against Ross County.
The depth of the squad was highlighted by the sight of Jamie Langfield, Willo Flood, Barry Robson, Peter Pawlett and David Goodwillie joining Joe Shaughnessy and Lawrence Shankland on the bench at the weekend.
The fight to be involved will only increase once injured defenders Ashton Taylor and captain Russell Anderson return from injury but the Dons manager insists every player will get a chance.
He said: “The squad is the strongest it has been all season. Everyone has played a part and the squad will be important to us in the remaining games.
“The players look hungry and they have done all season. We left Peter and David out on Saturday as we wanted to give Kenny McLean his debut and Cammy Smith has been knocking on the door for a while.
“Players at times have to accept being out of the team and being ready to respond in the right manner and both David and Peter did just that when they come off the bench on Saturday.
“We have also got Barry and Willo sitting on the bench ready to come on and play their part when required and we’re going to need that experience in the run-in.”
McInnes was pleased with the response from his side after the League Cup semi-final defeat by Dundee United and, with the result taking the Dons level with champions Celtic at the top of the Scottish Premiership, the Dons manager has called for focus from his players for the remainder of the campaign.
He said: “Time will tell if it actually helps only having the league to play for. We would rather be in the cups but we have got 14 games left, so it now becomes a 14-game season for us. It is important we try to maximise that as much as we can.
“It was a good response from the players and it was our biggest league victory of the season, so I think they deserve a lot of credit.
“It was disappointing, obviously, in the cup the previous weekend and it was important we came out with a real determination and I thought we did that.”
On loan West Brom defender Donervorn Daniels suffered a back spasm in the game after landing awkwardly but McInnes expects the player to be fit for Sunday’s trip to Hamilton.