KEITH Hill says Luke Murphy has been pushed to go the distance by Wanderers and is now reaping the rewards.

After spending his first season at Bolton in the shadows under Phil Parkinson, Murphy has now finally nailed down a regular starting spot.

Learner and fitter than at any stage of his spell at the UniBol, it was the midfielder’s tenacity, followed by his speed of thought in the final few minutes of the game against MK Dons last weekend that led to a winning goal for his namesake Daryl.

Reflecting on the 30-year-old’s renaissance in the eyes of the Bolton fans, Hill believes Murphy deserves credit for the groundwork he has put in on the training ground.

“I think there is a lot of respect both ways,” he said. “You have to build these relationships and explain to players what you want them to produce and with Luke he has responded, he’s fitter and it’s there for everyone to see the benefits.

“He is a talented footballer, no question about it, and he’s played exceptionally well since we brought him back into the side. I am really pleased for him because it’s a product of hard work and the fact he’s making those footballing sacrifices on the training ground.

“We get players training to a certain standard so they can play and maintain that standard.

“If you work exceptionally hard during the week, on a Saturday it isn’t physically hard. They are fresher to make good decisions on the pitch.

“I honestly think Luke is a product of the 10 weeks of very hard work we have been doing on the training pitch.

“Luke has done great and he’s overcome the challenges we have put to him but we won’t stop being demanding.

“That’s all you want as a management team. If you ask players to make changes and embrace what you want from them there’s no better reward than to see it paying off.”

Few will remember last season at Bolton with any great fondness, and less so Murphy who was reduced to just seven Championship starts after signing a two-year deal with the club.

After starting four of the first five games of the season Murphy went off the radar until January when a brief flurry of appearances proved to be his last of the campaign.

Peterborough United were among the clubs loitering with intent over the summer, should the player have ripped up the final 12 months of his contract.

And after naming Murphy in his first line-up, Hill set down what he needed from the former Leeds United man to command a regular spot – an invite he readily accepted after Ali Crawford was ruled out for four months with a knee injury.

“I think Luke is an intelligent football player but fitness gives you clarity. It gives you the ability to make better decisions on the pitch.

“He’s a very good technical player so I think if he can breathe easier it’s quite simple.

“If you are trying to do a 10k run at your best then you go out and do multiple 16, 17k runs so that once you’ve had adequate rest, the shorter distance becomes easier. I think that’s what we have done with him.”

Accrington boss John Coleman has watched with interest as Hill has turned around Wanderers' fortunes in the last few months.

Around 2,800 Bolton fans will be heading for the Wham Stadium tomorrow for what will be the first-ever league meeting between the two clubs.

Like many opposing managers in recent weeks, Coleman has seen fit to highlight that Wanderers are no longer the whipping boys of League One, as they once were.

But the Stanley boss hopes his players - among them ex-Bolton midfielder Joe Pritchard - can rise to the occasion of a embryonic Lancashire rivalry.

“You can’t beat it when our ground is full and our fans tend to step up to the plate and raise the noise levels against the bigger numbers of away fans, I am really looking forward to Saturday,” he said.

“Bolton have got a good management team in Keith Hill and Flickers (David Flitcroft) and they have now got a strong side. They have done well to turn around what was a club on the slide, and they have a good fan base so it should make for a cracking game.

“We know what’s happened and it hasn’t been fair on the Bolton supporters, the team and the teams playing them but now it’s about concentrating on the present.

“They started a long way behind but they have got into positive points and will be boosted by that.

“Our priority has not what’s happened in the past but to focus on trying to beat them on Saturday and inflict damage on them like they will be trying to do to us.” “We know he’s talented. I have watched him since he played for Crewe, develop, go to Leeds, and I have always fancied him as a football player.

“It was just a case of getting him in tune with the way we work, over-train him so that a 90-minute game becomes that bit easier.

“And I still think there’s improvement in him. I am going to demand it from him while he is doing well.”