Ben Johnson stole the show for West Ham United as the London Stadium natives were forced to settle for a point at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday afternoon.
David Moyes opted to hand the 20-year-old prospect his first start of the Premier League season whilst reverting back to his favoured five-man defence, having been forced to utilise a four-strong backline following Arthur Masuaku’s knee surgery.
Johnson had not featured for more than five minutes in a top-flight fixture since matchday three when introduced at half-time for the injured Ryan Fredericks against Wolves, making two late cameos in meetings with Manchester United and Leeds earlier this month.
Moyes’ decision to field Johnson as his left-sided full-back paid dividends early in the second half, when the defender who former Irons academy chief Terry Westley believes “ticks every box” steered home a superb strike into the top corner of Robert Sanchez’s net.
Johnson’s 60th-minute hit pulled West Ham level after Neal Maupay broke the deadlock on the cusp of half-time, while a committed header from Tomas Soucek snatched a point with eight minutes to play after Lewis Dunk restored the Seagull’s advantage.
Johnson, praised by Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville in July, had been key to the Hammers’ efforts prior to the break by providing his side’s width on the left-flank with Soucek and Sebastien Haller struggling to cause Ben White and Adam Webster any issues, but failed to see his performance rewarded.
The Irons product’s continued push ultimately returned his first goal in senior football as the London-born talent recorded his fourth top-flight outing of the campaign, more than in any other season to date having achieved a previous best three appearances last term.
Johnson firmly stole the show for West Ham against Brighton beyond his initial equaliser, with a diligent display at both ends of the field that will only instil the 20-year-old with greater confidence to beat opposing players when Moyes next looks favourably on his services.
The youngster enjoyed 43 touches of the ball against Graham Potter’s visiting Amex Stadium natives, and retained possession well with 22 accurate passes from 28 attempts. He further tried his luck with five crosses, though saw each delivery miss an Irons player, per SofaScore.
No player for either side intercepted the ball more often than Johnson, too, with the £2m-rated talent breaking up play three times, while never being dribbled past or committing a foul.
Johnson only attempted two dribbles yet left the field at the full-time whistle having won two of his three ground duels, and showed his willingness to spread play with four attempted long passes.
Moyes will have been delighted with Johnson’s efforts at left-back, a position he had previously played just thrice in the senior fold.