Ben Johnson delivered a promising performance on his return to the starting line-up despite West Ham United succumbing to a 3-2 defeat at Newcastle on Saturday.
The Irons boss had only fielded Johnson from the bench in two of West Ham’s prior three top-flight fixtures, after a chastening display from the academy graduate in defeat to Manchester United last month.
Johnson was widely criticised for his efforts at Old Trafford, with former Sheffield United midfielder Michael Brown claiming “I think he is frightened” after the youngster struggled to consistently get forward.
A first half red card for Craig Dawson this afternoon ensured that Johnson could not alleviate those concerns at Newcastle, as West Ham were forced to play much of the game with 10 men and needed a stable foundation in the hope of mounting a second half comeback.
However, Johnson still had chances to get forward and help to create openings for a Hammers side missing Michail Antonio due to a hamstring injury, and he ended the day with a team-high three key passes to his name, per WhoScored.
Only Newcastle’s dynamic dribbler Allan Saint-Maximin, who consistently ran at the Irons’ defence, created more goalscoring opportunities (five) than Johnson, while Vladimir Coufal and Mark Noble (two each) represented the visitor’s next-best options , per WhoScored.
Jesse Lingard endured a very quiet first half and saw plenty of the ball after the break, but struggled to show his creativity before lashing home a thunderous penalty to restore parity with 10 minutes to play.
He would later limp off the pitch after appearing to develop cramp in his hamstring, having failed to offer a single key pass for the second game running and the fourth since joining the Irons on loan from Manchester United in February.
Johnson – who Franck McAvennie previously claimed is “a joy to watch” – also stood strong defensively to produce a vital goal-line clearance to deny Jacob Murphy in the closing stages, and further offered a joint team-high three successful tackles with Tomas Soucek.
Unlike Soucek, who was dribbled past twice, Johnson was only beaten on the ground once, with the £19k-per-week talent enjoy a vastly more productive afternoon than his Premier League match average of 0.8 tackles this season.
Johnson also won five of his seven ground duels and delivered seven crosses into the Newcastle box, with five finding an Irons teammate, per SofaScore.
Only Vladimir Coufal (seven) won more ground duels for West Ham than the left-back, while Lingard attempted the next-most crosses but failed to find a claret and blue shirt with any of his six deliveries, per SofaScore.
Lingard may have continued his run of either scoring or assisting in Premier League games for West Ham to seven in a row with his penalty, but Johnson was Moyes’ real positive from a disappointing defeat to Steve Bruce’s relegation-threatened Magpies.