BY ONE OF those coincidences which keep punctuating football's story, last Saturday's Torquay United-v-AFC Wimbledon game featured one centre-forward who nearly came to Plainmoor this summer and one who really did.
Michael Smith is a young striker who signed for Charlton Athletic after impressing for Darlington as a teenager.
Since he joined the Addicks, Smith has spent loan spells with Accrington, Newport and Colchester, scoring nine goals in 16 starts.
Gulls boss Alan Knill and assistant Chris Brass checked him out in a Development game between Charlton and Bristol City near the end of last season.
The 21-year-old Geordie went straight onto their 'Keep In Mind' list.
Already there was 20-year-old Callum Ball of Derby County.
Knill had seen him first as a 17-year-old and always liked him.
The problem was that Ball had spent most of last season at Coventry City on loan, and the word was that he was being aimed at another League One club this season.
It was only last Tuesday that Smith eventually opted for a short move across London to sign for Wimbledon on loan.
Knill had already done a bit of groundwork to try and persuade Derby to let him have Ball.
But it was by no means certain, especially when Ball played 75 minutes in a strong Derby Reserves side which won 3-0 at Matlock Town last Tuesday night.
But the hard work and the phone calls eventually paid off, and in the early hours of Thursday morning Ball and his mum were driving down from the East Midlands to South Devon.
"Coventry was a good loan for him last season, even though he did pick up an injury there.
"And for a long time I just thought Callum was going to end up in League One again or above," said Knill.
"And even if you have a chance of a player like him, you're never sure whether they want to travel this far.
"But we kept contact with Derby, kept talking to them and then they agreed to let us have him.
"The best thing for me was that, once we'd agreed with Derby, Callum immediately said 'Yes'. He just wants to get first-team football and play games.
"He's so honest – he's happy to do whatever you ask him to do.
"It was difficult for him to come into the team last weekend, after only a couple of sessions with us.
"We went a bit direct in the second half, as Wimbledon did, which didn't really suit him, but it's not going to be like that all the time.
"I thought he did OK, but I know there's more to come from him, and it will come as we get better as a team."
Only time will tell whether Smith or Ball proves to be more effective centre-forward in League Two.