AFC WimbledonSport

Weymouth keeper sees no reasons they can’t dump his former club AFC Wimbledon out of FA Cup

Zaki Oualah is confident Weymouth can cause a giant-killing when his former club AFC Wimbledon visit the Bob Lucas Stadium tomorrow in the first round of the FA Cup.

The keeper, 27, signed for the Terras on October 1 following his release by the Dons last summer.

His only professional stint in league football to date came with the Dons when he was handed a contract by Mark Robinson following seven years of training with the goalkeepers and coach Ashley Bayes.

Johnnie Jackson’s Wimbledon head into their clash against Oualah’s National League South side on the back of a four-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

Oualah is set to make his 350th senior appearance this weekend.

He told the South London Press: “Life has a funny way of making things line up sometimes. I was saying to everyone that I would love to play Wimbledon in the first round.

“I was coaching at the time, and I just had a load of messages come through on my phone letting me know that we had drawn them.

“I’m really excited to play them. I want to win on Saturday. It’s a big game and a great occasion. I’m sure it will be a good contest on the day.

“For sure [it could be seen as a potential giant-killing]. It’s the FA Cup and you see it happen year in, year out.

“Wimbledon have great players and a great team, but if we play our game and focus on what we have to do, we will give ourselves a chance of getting through.”

He trained with Aaron Ramsdale, George Long, Kelle Roos and James Shea during his time with the Dons prior to being rewarded with a professional deal.

Oualah’s two appearances in a Wimbledon shirt came in the EFL Trophy games against Crystal Palace’s U21s and Portsmouth. He spent the majority of the first half of the season as back-up and competition to Nik Tzanev.

“I was so grateful,” he said, reflecting on the feeling of earning his first professional deal. “It meant the world to me.

“It was something I had been dreaming of and knew, deep down, was always possible. I only proved myself right. I was the one who turned up week in, week out, to be there and believed that I could have done it.

“I don’t see it as my target is done, and I’m settling now. I’m still very much looking up.”

Oualah has travelled the non-league circuit and played for 20 teams before becoming a professional with the Dons, making the bench at the Emirates, The Stadium of Light and Hillsborough.

“To actually be in these stadiums in the flesh was amazing,” said Oualah. “It was something that I had been working towards for such a long time. Although it took seven years, in terms of that transition, you could also say it happened overnight.

“The season before I was at Leatherhead in the Isthmian League South and then the following season I’m at the Emirates.”

The 5ft 9ins tall shotstopper spent the second half of last season on loan with Billericay Town following the arrival of Nathan Broome from Stoke City. Oualah was released following Wimbledon’s relegation from League One.

“I found out in January that I wasn’t going to get a new deal with Wimbledon,” said Oualah.

“It was a tough season. Being in a changing room where we weren’t winning much made the environment trickier.

“Even when you’re not playing, you’re part of the atmosphere, so you want the team to win.

“There are so many things now that I can look back on and think what I could have done differently. But at the time, I was doing the best that I thought I could do in the moment. It was great for me – I have nothing but gratitude for those experiences.

“I would have liked to have played more games, but I’m still more confident that I’m going to get back into the Football League and play professional football again.”

PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD

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