The Republic of Ireland Under-21 skipper nipped ahead of Noe Pamarot in the race for the right-back spot and put together a run of eight starts from the end of January to the start of March before losing out to the Frenchman at Forest and Charlton.
'Steo' was back in again for the win against Manchester City but he knows better than to take his place for granted when he returns from international duty and starts preparing for the trip to Birmingham City in the Barclays Premiership on April 2.
"This is a big club with a lot of players and competition for places," reasoned Stephen. "The gaffer sometimes feels it's necessary to change things and he has the players to do it.
"Every time an opportunity comes around you have to take it.
"When you are in the team you don't take it lightly or think you are going to play every week. You know the gaffer can change it so you are on your toes all the time.
"You have to put in a good performance every time you play, there is no other option if you want to play the next game."
Stephen Kelly says the depth of the squad is driving players on every time they pull on a white shirt.