IT is an inconvenient scenario that Ian Evatt will have only considered in his darkest moments but may now be one he must face: If Dion Charles is injured, what next?

Wanderers fans are anxious to know whether the talismanic striker, top scorer this season and last, has been put out of action with the shoulder problem he suffered in Saturday’s defeat at Reading.

Evatt put on a brave face after he final whistle, and though no course of action has yet been set in stone, the best-case scenario for Charles would be that he could be given a painkilling injection, enabling him to play against Peterborough United on Saturday and potentially thereafter.

There are no guarantees, however, as Bolton found out this summer when defender Eoin Toal took several weeks to rid himself of an ankle ligament injury and missed a fair chunk of the pre-season preparations.

Charles had not been earmarked for substitution at Reading but after he was felled whilst going for goal – a challenge that Evatt claimed should also have been a penalty – he signalled to the bench that the pain was too great to continue.

The Royals went on to win the game, shifting the spotlight firmly on to the quartet of players who were introduced in those final 15 minutes, and what life would be like without the services of Bolton’s chief goal getter.

Charles has not started on three occasions in all competitions this season, two in the cups against lower division opposition in Barrow and Salford City, the other a wretched 4-0 home defeat against neighbouring Wigan Athletic.

In the seven League One games so far Wanderers have not scored a goal without Charles being on the pitch and he has registered more attacking contributions than anyone else in the squad. Add to that his pressing style, which fits perfectly with the way Evatt asks his forward players to work, and his unavailability could be a very tricky issue for the Bolton boss.

Furthermore, the strikers currently out of the side have shown little to suggest that they can make up the shortfall.

Dan Nlundulu has started each of the games in which Charles was not in the starting line-up and has racked up a total of 158 minutes in the league overall.

The 24-year-old, signed for a six-figure fee from Southampton in the summer, enjoyed a flutter of good form whilst on loan at the end of last season, scoring against Bristol Rovers, but has struggled to get any sort of traction this time around in six appearances off the bench.

Evatt felt confident that with the right coaching and improved fitness that he could progress Nlundulu to become a regular starter, but his campaign has been a frustrating one so far, totalling four shots at goals, two of which were on target.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson has spent a meagre 35 minutes on the pitch in all competitions thanks to a hamstring injury picked up at the end of pre-season, and though the Icelander has no shortage of well-wishers among the Bolton faithful, his fitness problems have taken a large bite out of his momentum.

When Bodvarsson has been fully fit, he has often been used as a foil for Charles, and the pair made an effective combination at the turn of the year before an ankle injury ended his season completely.

Given a new one-year deal and the chance of a fresh start in the summer, the 31-year-old looked in a good position to add to the 15 goals he has scored in a Wanderers shirt to date. His opportunities on the pitch have been rare, however, with Nlundulu and Cameron Jerome both sent on ahead of him at Reading on Saturday, and he has yet to hit the target with a shot, let alone trouble the scoreboard.

Jerome’s Bolton career has been spent almost entirely as a substitute with just two of his 20 appearances coming as a starter. The 37-year-old has not yet scored for the club, and according to has had just one shot at goal in his 140 minutes in all competitions this term.

While the numbers make grim reading for the three fit players who could theoretically step into Charles’s boots, his strike partner Victor Adeboyejo has had a relatively solid start and may yet be the silver lining in this delicate situation.

Aside from Saturday’s wasteful performance at Reading the Nigerian has returned some encouraging numbers and has the highest average goal expectancy of anyone in the squad (0.62), bettering Charles (0.42) and Randell Williams (0.15).

Although Adeboyejo (16) has not registered as many shots at goal as Charles (22), he has not yet had one officially classed as ‘off target’. In that regard he is a statistically anomaly among any striker in the division who has played in more than half of his team’s games this season. In total he has scored four times, put 10 shots ‘on target’ and had a further six blocked.

Though Charles and Adeboyejo saw comparatively little of the ball at Reading, they did link-up on a few occasions around the penalty box to create goalscoring opportunities, which will have been one of few positives Evatt and his coaching staff could take from a bitterly disappointing afternoon in Berkshire.

That defeat has heaped some pressure on the outcome of this weekend’s match against Peterborough, another of the teams expected to be fighting it out for honours at the end of the season.

Wanderers were 13 minutes away from going top of the table on Saturday but dropped to seventh spot after their late collapse and have also fallen behind the oft-quoted two-points-per-game target for promotion.

Evatt would have at least considered the possibility of life without Charles during the transfer window when Championship clubs like Watford and Stoke City were monitoring him closely – but he would have had the luxury of funds to replace him. Should the striker be out of commission for any great length of time the Bolton boss may even have to consider the free agent market to ensure he has enough cover.

Wanderers are unlikely to show their cards too early, and we may not know whether Charles is right to play against Peterborough until the team-sheets arrive at 2pm.

So, for the moment, every Bolton supporter will be keeping their fingers and toes crossed that his name will be on the list.