- West Ham United defender Alex Pike enjoyed the challenge of facing huge Wycombe Wanderers forward Adebayo Akinfenwa on Tuesday night
- The young Hammers were beaten 3-0 by their League Two opponents in the Checkatrade Trophy
- But Pike is confident Terry Westley’s side have learned from the experience
Young Hammers defender Alex Pike admitted though he was left battered and bruised by big Wycombe Wanderers forward Adebayo Akinfenwa in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday night, he is better off for the experience.
The Chairboys frontman scored the opening goal after seven minutes at Adams Park and though the hosts went on to score twice more to seal the victory, West Ham’s young defence got to grips with Akinfenwa’s physical presence as the game wore on.
Defeat for Terry Westley’s side, who are still yet to face Northampton Town in their final EFL Trophy fixture, meant they can no longer progress from their southern group D but Pike believes the youngsters have learned from the tests they have faced so far.
He said: “It was a great experience for us and it’s not something we come up against in our league every week. It’s good to have a different challenge, like this and like against Coventry in the last match.
“It was hard marking Akinfenwa – he is certainly as strong as he looks! He’s a big lad and it just means you have to be either cleverer or stronger than him. Since you can’t be stronger, it leaves you with just one option.
“I’ve got a few cuts and bruises, though I’ve got no idea what from – probably one of his body parts!
“But this is why we’re in this competition. We get different challenges and that’s what gives you the experience ahead of the next stage of our careers, whether that’s a loan or whatever.”
Wycombe’s two second half strikes all-but decided the final result of the match, however the Hammers went close on a number of occasions as they looked to cut the deficit in Buckinghamshire.
“I think we had some great chances at the end and if we were a little tighter at set pieces and did the basics right, we would have stayed in with a chance to win,” continued 19-year-old Pike.
“They were a good side to play against. Sometimes in the Academy you can start to get complacent but these tests show you the real-world level and it’s good to test yourself against professionals.
“These games are very different to the Academy sides we face. The teams are a lot more physical. They were very direct, Wycombe, but that’s part of being a player – you have to adapt to the different challenges that occur, and you do have to deal with it.”
Pike played alongside Tunji Akinola at centre-back against Wanderers, a position he has now had experience of playing a number of times this campaign despite naturally being a full-back.
“It’s good to show my versatility,” he revealed. “You see a different perspective of the game and the pitch and now when I play right-back, I’ll have a better understanding of what the centre-back deals with.
“It’s good to get these experiences, because we work on our technical side of the game and being good with the ball every day in training. Terry is massive on it.
“When we come into these games, we want to try and play the game we want to play it, rather than getting in a fight or a battle. We want to keep playing the way we want to and hopefully, we should start to get some results.”