WANDERERS ‘second wave’ are on their way to make sure the club finishes 2021 in the strongest possible fashion.

Ian Evatt has been without a sizeable chunk of his first team squad over the last couple of months but the Whites still sit a respectable seventh, two points outside the play-off spots.

Xavier Amaechi was side-lined in pre-season, Amadou Bakayoko’s fine start was checked by a calf injury and minor injury and illness issues have also prevented Declan John from getting up to top speed.

Add to that Elias Kachunga’s pre-season only began at the start of August and it can be reasonably argued that Bolton’s squad has not yet reached its peak potential.

Evatt is excited by the prospect of bringing Bakayoko and Amaechi into his front line by the end of November and was able to give Kachunga his first league start at Charlton on Tuesday night.

“Kacha will get better and better,” he predicted. “He has had no pre-season and had to get fit on the job, really, so it has taken some time.

“But I thought he was excellent. His work ethic considering he hasn’t played 90 minutes yet was outstanding.”

Evatt made four changes to his side at The Valley, restoring Declan John to the side for the first time since the 1-0 defeat at Cambridge United on August 28.

He also gave Kieran Lee and Alex Baptiste their second and third league start of the season, respectively, as he catered for the rigours of two long away trips in quick succession.

“We have missed Declan for a few weeks,” the manager said. “Now he is having to improve and increase his fitness levels again.

“Alex hasn’t played too much of late and he was cramping up towards the end of the game.

“It speaks volumes of Kieran Lee that he is able to play at that tempo and intensity for 90 minutes when he hasn’t played too much either.

“We are a good group, and we will keep everyone on board.

“But most of all we will keep our heads down and we know there’s lots more to come.”

Despite having a few illness and injury issues to cope with over the first 10 games of the season, Evatt has regularly talked about the greater competition within his squad this season compared to last.

He has used the Central League to his advantage, trying to give some football to the players who have not featured regularly in his league squad.

But the Bolton boss is delighted that the rivalries within his dressing room continue to be positive.

“I can’t fault any of them, I just can’t,” he enthused. “This is very much a squad game and the starting 11 are easy to look after. They’re easy to keep happy.

“It’s the ones out of the team that are the most important people in any football club. The way they support their mates, the way they’re encouraging, there’s a buy-in there from everybody and that needs to continue and it will because they’re a fantastic group.”

Lee – who was a central figure in Wanderers’ resurgence last season after his arrival – has had to play second fiddle to Josh Sheehan in recent weeks.

Evatt now has some food for thought on Saturday as he considers which of his midfield options can get a result at home to Shrewsbury.

“Kieran has had to be patient, but we’ve got a very good squad of players in my opinion,” Evatt said. “I trust them all, I think the world of them all and when they’re called upon, they’re capable of stepping in and performing like that and when it’s your turn to play, you have to take that opportunity and Kieran’s took his opportunity today.

“Not one of the ones that came out of the team tonight have done anything wrong. None of them. Liam Gordon, Josh, Izzy missed through injury, George Johnston - no-one’s done anything wrong to come out of the team.

“But we have to have that buy-in from everybody and sometimes you have to share that responsibility of playing in the team. We shared it tonight and we’ve got the right result.”