A MATTER of minutes after his players had walked off the pitch as beaten play-off semi-finalists at Barnsley back in May, Ian Evatt was being asked whether he would have the financial firepower to go a step further this season.

“Absolutely” was his unequivocal reply.

Wanderers had their eyes opened by the mega-budgets of Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and others, and knew that the purse strings had to be relaxed a little if they were to pursue a top two spot.

Weeks later the season ticket launch was met with record sales, shouted from the rooftops, and a bond scheme tallied by the club in detail, up to a final figure of £4.5million.

No secret was being made of the club’s commercial successes, be it pop concerts, shirt sales or a record stadium naming rights deal with local recycling and building materials firm Toughsheet.

“All that helps make us more sustainable and gives us a better platform to go and recruit better players,” an upbeat Evatt told The Bolton News. “We’re excited, we know we need to do more, we will do more, we know what’s needed in the summer and good times are coming.”

Sharon Brittan echoed her manager’s ambition, insisting the club’s progress would not be allowed to plateau.

“We were disappointed that we lost to Barnsley, but when we look back and reflect, we're very happy with our progress,” she said. “Next season, I want us to have automatic promotion – that is our aim.

“I am very ambitious, and I'd like to take this club from the brink of liquidation back to the Premier League where it belongs. That’s the journey we’ve subscribed to and I, more than anyone, want to fulfil that.”

With such positive messaging, it is little surprise that expectation among supporters also increased, and with all the bravado the message of keeping the club sustainable may also have been somewhat diluted.

Money was spent on transfer fees for defender Will Forrester from Port Vale, the versatile Carlos Mendes Gomes from Luton Town and striker Dan Nlundulu but there were signs too over the summer months that their spending would not be allowed to spiral out of control. Deals for Bristol City wing-back Kane Wlson and St Mirren’s Keanu Baccus were dropped at a late stage and Bolton passed on some of the more expensive players being hawked around the division, including Peterborough United’s Jonson Clarke-Harris and Ollie Norburn.

Clarke-Harris, twice top scorer at this level for Posh in recent seasons, was a player coveted by many fans who questioned whether Bolton had enough depth in their striking ranks.

To put the numbers involved into some context, Posh owner Darragh MacAnthony has since confirmed that Bristol Rovers agreed a deal to sign the 29-year-old for £800,000 alongside £250,000 of “achievable bonuses” on deadline day, only to see paperwork fail to go through on time and the deal collapse.

Wanderers declined to publicise what they spent on Forrester, Gomes and Nlundulu but it is understood that all three fees combined would not have totalled the money Rovers were prepared to pay for Clarke-Harris.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Evatt had said of the prospect of Bolton’s reported interest: “Jonno is a very, very good player and for this level in particular his goal record is second to none.

When you have got a record like that you will always get recognition and admiration from other managers.

“But for me, it is not just about that, they have to fit into our mould, they have to fit into our wage remit, and they have to be affordable for us to keep this club sustainable.

“He would probably be worth a lot more money than we have got to spend.”

Wanderers take on Peterborough – and Clarke-Harris – at the Toughsheet Community Stadium this weekend with a squad that has been ravaged by injuries since the window closed.

MacAnthony has talked openly about Darren Ferguson’s desire to sell the experienced striker, allowing him to develop his own tactical plan and a younger squad, yet his ubiquitous goalscoring threat still makes him impossible to leave out.

Despite still being on the transfer list, Clarke-Harris has scored twice this season and started all but one of the club’s league fixtures so far.

Evatt’s own goalscoring talisman, Dion Charles, remains a doubt for the weekend, nursing a shoulder injury sustained in defeat against Reading. Concerns over the potency of Wanderers’ attack – aired consistently through the summer and into the autumn – have only intensified since a wasteful performance at the weekend.

Back-up strikers like Nlundulu, Cameron Jerome and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson have struggled for form and opportunities in the opening six weeks of the campaign, and so Charles’s potential absence has understandably got some in a flap about what comes next.

Evatt has been nothing if not loyal to his attack for several months and can point to Victor Adeboyejo’s improved returns for validation. He maintains the squad is strong enough but with injuries now biting deep into a squad that was not among League One’s biggest to begin with, there are now some legitimate points being raised about the suitability of the club’s playing budget, and indeed how available resources were used.

Wanderers were 13 minutes away from topping the table on Saturday – but doubts about squad depth have been made even in the more successful moments. Should Charles play through the pain against Peterborough, they are unlikely to disappear, at least until goals are more evenly spread.

Evatt loves nothing more than to prove a doubter wrong and the vocal backing he has given to the players he signed and rewarded with good contracts would be rewarded with performances in an ideal world. There are five games remaining before the international break, where at least some of the injured posse are scheduled to return, and the manager will not want to fall too far behind his oft-quoted two-points-per-game target.

Wanderers have backed up their bombastic pre-season messaging in fits and starts over their first seven games but never consistently enough to allow their fans to relax. An immediate response against Peterborough this weekend would be a step in the right direction.