WANDERERS are on high alert after learning they could lose two key defenders for up to six weeks in the New Year.

Gethin Jones and Jack Iredale have been watched by Australia with the view to calling them up for the AFC Asian Cup, which kicks off on January 12 and runs until February 10.

Socceroos assistant Rene Meulensteen was at Bolton on Saturday to run the rule over the uncapped pair, who have been mainstays for Ian Evatt this season.

Carlos Mendes Gomes will definitely be involved in Guinea Bissau’s squad for the African Cup of Nations, which runs for an almost identical length of time.

Depending on how early the squads gather, the trio could be out of action for seven league games if their county also goes the distance.

Evatt is already assessing whether he needs to bring in midfield cover for Gomes in the January window but now has something else to consider in defence, should Jones or Iredale get selected.

“Obviously, to a certain degree we will have to make a decision once we get there,” he told The Bolton News.

“I think Carlos is guaranteed now at the African Nations, so we know where we are with that one.

“But we also now have some slight worries that Australia might call Geth and Jack for the Asia Cup, which is a worry we don’t really need.

“It happens at the same time, six weeks out of January until the second week in February, and their assistant was watching them on Saturday.

“It is something we will have to be quite fluid with, see what happens, and we haven’t had any confirmation about anything yet other than Carlos. We can plan for that now and just stay flexible with everything else.”

International football has already caused some disruption to Bolton’s season, with two games postponed because of call-ups, but there will be no recourse to move fixtures for those involved in either the Asian Cup or African Cup of Nations.

Though pleased his players are getting recognition, Evatt admits the timing could be better.

“Well, we could go on with the debate about having international tournaments mid-season and games still have to be played, not being compensated etc, but it is probably an argument for another time, not for now,” he added.

Wanderers take on Port Vale in the second round of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy tonight looking to continue their impressive defence of the title.

Vale provided stiff opposition on their own turf at the end of September and Evatt expects another tricky tie this time around.

“They asked us a lot of questions, especially in the second half, during that game,” he said. “They have just got a good result at Stevenage and they can be a difficult team, against the ball. They can cause issues with the way they set up and play. We need to be ready.

“We have a responsibility to win as many games as we can at this football club, so this is no different.”