THERE is a jet-black seam of irony running through Wanderers’ complaints about a lack of available personnel for Tuesday’s night’s League One clash with Doncaster Rovers.

Lest we forget the last time the South Yorkshiremen were preparing for a game at the UniBol, on August 19, 2020, they controversially found it cancelled at less than 24 hours’ notice.

Bolton, then in the hands of administrators, took the view that with only a handful of senior professionals on their books at the time they could not safely ask players as young as 15 to compete, forcing them into a drastic course of action.

Doncaster were understandably miffed. And doubly so when Wanderers were not docked extra points for failing to fulfil their fixtures by not one but two independent panels.

Now they really were dark days, and some might say they put current grumbles about an embarrassing FA Cup exit and some iffy mid-table form into some degree of context.

Without half a dozen senior players, Ian Evatt has little choice but to try and circle his waggons this week, with Doncaster’s visit to be followed by that of Cheltenham Town and then Fleetwood in the Papa John’s Trophy.

The Wanderers boss made a pre-emptive appeal for patience from supporters, who despite a few online moans and groans have yet to show any real public dissention.

“We know we can better and that there are things to work and improve on,” he said after the 1-0 defeat at Wycombe. “We know January is just around the corner. But, for now, the players need your support, I need your support, I think we have earned that.”

It is nearly six weeks before the January window opens and Evatt can start to think about boosting his squad in the transfer market, so any advantage he can muster between now and then will be a bonus.

He is already considering scaling down physical work on the training ground to preserve the numbers he has available and will be keeping his fingers crossed that Dapo Afolayan can survive the Doncaster game without picking up a fifth booking, which would see him serve a one-game suspension before the deadline.

Although the run of impact injuries does seem severe, described by Evatt as the worst he had seen as a player or manager in football, there are a few onlookers who would point at recent recruitment decisions and ponder if, in hindsight, they were correct.

The release of club captain Antoni Sarcevic has been explained ambiguously as a “football decision” – and one which would have happened next summer, regardless. His defection to Stockport County made for an intriguing subplot in the FA Cup defeat but in the busy run-up to Christmas, his energy in midfield is missed all the more.

Few tears were shed when Brandon Comley was released by the club last month, with the former Colchester United man nearly a year out of the first team reckoning. But given the injuries which have stacked up since, the timing of his exit could have been better.

Ronan Darcy will spend the next few weeks with Sogndal in Norway aiming for promotion in the play-offs. Should the academy graduate succeed, he will be back before the New Year, but cannot be recalled.

The same can be said of Dennis Politic, whose chances in League Two with Port Vale have been limited.

Wanderers can bring him back in January, should they so wish, but with talks broken down on a new contract, there seems little chance of reconciliation at this stage.

Rather, Evatt has spoken about repeating the same trick he pulled off last January when his recruitment efforts helped to turn a dreadful campaign into a successful one.

Placed 20th in the table at the start of February 2021, the club’s climb up the League Two table to grab an automatic promotion spot was unprecedented; so rare, in fact, that it may be considered a risky call to assume it could happen again.

Evatt, nor Wanderers, want to start from that far back again. So stabilising form in the coming weeks – even with a skeletal squad – must be a priority.