MATCHWINNER Daryl Murphy has been told he can be a 'top player' after shooting his side to a second consecutive home victory against Norwich City.

Murphy capped a fine workmanlike performance with an instinctive strike from the edge of the 18-yard box to net his fourth Championship goal of the season and stretch the Black Cats' unbeaten run to five games.

The Irishman's display, as a sole striker in a 4-5-1 formation, prompted manager Roy Keane to say Murphy has all the attributes to play at the highest level.

"It's a hard role up there on your own, especially when the quality of the ball isn't great," admitted Keane. "I have spoken to him a number of times and he has the potential to be a top, top player.

"We need consistent performances from him. We have had a couple in a row now. If we keep him in tip-top shape and look after his body and give him a lot of exercise, he has the potential.

"But the top players do it week in, week out. I told him before the game not to rest on his laurels following the QPR game. He certainly didn't. His work-rate was outstanding as well."

Murphy acknowledged the conversation he shared with his manager after making his 14th first team start this term and revealed he is determined to fulfil his potential.

He said: "I have talked to him (Keane) about what it takes to reach that level and he has given me confidence throughout the season to get there.

"If Roy Keane tells you that you're a good player then of course you take it in. He's not the kind of man who would lie to you. I just need to work hard and keep doing what I'm doing. The gaffer doesn't say things just for the sake of saying them - if he says something you listen because he means it."

While Keane believes the game is about footballers rather than systems, he has favoured a 4-5-1 formation in recent months with a great deal of success. Stephen Elliott has been one of the main beneficiaries of this in an unfamiliar wide right of midfield role, where he has netted some important goals in the club's recent turnaround.

Murphy praised the contribution of his Sunderland teammate and admitted he relishes the lone striker role.

"It's a boost for everyone that me and Stephen are getting among the goals," said the former Waterford player. "Everyone knows how good Stephen is. He has been out for a while with injuries but I think we link up well. I have set up a few of his goals and he has assisted me.

"It's tough playing up front on your own but most people misunderstand the formation.

"They think it's too defensive but when you have the likes of Stephen and Ross cutting in and supporting off the flanks and Grant (Leadbitter) making runs from midfield then it's a very effective formation - if it's done right.

"Stephen is recognised as an out-and-out striker but he has been doing a very good job on the right wing for us, cutting in and scaring the life out of defenders. It has been good to see.

"Stephen cut in from the right again against Norwich and found me with the pass. My first touch set me up nicely and I couldn't have given myself a better chance.

"The minute I hit it I just knew it was in and it was one of those strikes that if you catch it right it's a goal."