KEITH Hill is satisfied his improving Wanderers can stand toe-to-toe with Sunderland today despite their relative lack of conditioning.

Confidence is improving in the camp after an encouraging performance against Oxford United in midweek but with several players still feeling their way to full fitness, the Bolton boss admits he has had to have his squad tread carefully over the last few days.

Wanderers will once again start as huge underdogs at home and Hill is maintaining sensible expectations heading into the game.

“This is our third game in a week and we have players who have not done that in 12, 14, 16 months,” he told The Bolton News. “The only player we did recruit who’d played those games was Joe Bunney, he was up to match speed, but unfortunately he had a nasty accident.

“Adam Chicksen has trained two days and played two games in the last six months.

“But what we have seen in training is encouraging. The players are taking everything on board and we’re going into the game in a healthy mental state.

“Physically there will be big improvements, but technically and tactically they are gradually taking things in. It won’t happen overnight but I’m happy.”

Wanderers will once again be without their two recognised strikers, Daryl Murphy and Chris O’Grady, through injury, along with defender Harry Brockbank.

“I can’t rush anyone – but I think it’s potentially three weeks before we’ll see anyone and the quickest one we’ll get on the training pitch is probably Daryl Murphy,” Hill told us. “Other than that, I think the rest are three to five weeks.”

Hill could make changes to fresh up his side this afternoon and feels some of the younger players who stepped into the breach earlier this season are now knocking on the door once again.

“Even though we can’t get those injured players on the bench we have to make sure the younger players are up to speed on what we are doing, the improvements we are making and demanding of them,” he said. “We have seen some really good shoots from them and a willingness to do it our way.”