Ben Johnson says his rising confidence was key to scoring in West Ham United’s 4-1 Premier League win at Aston Villa.
The young right-back netted the Hammers’ opening goal with a superbly taken strike, collecting Declan Rice’s pass before cutting in from the right and curling a low and accurate shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
It should have set the Irons on their way to a dominant win at Villa Park, but instead the visitors lost their focus and allowed Ollie Watkins to sweep in an equaliser. Even after Ezri Konsa was sent-off for bringing down Jarrod Bowen, Villa continued to threaten, with Lukasz Fabianski tipping Watkins’ header onto the crossbar.
David Moyes sensed trouble and brought on Manuel Lanzini to settle his team down, with the desired result, as first Pablo Fornals scored at the end of a counter-attack before the Argentinian teed up Bowen to complete a deserved victory.
Speaking to West Ham TV, Johnson was delighted to score his second goal for the Club he joined as a schoolboy, and is proud to be part of a squad that is setting new standards this year.
Johno, what a fantastic win! That’s five in a row, eight away Premier League games without defeat and we’re level on points with Manchester City in third!
“The away fans are class! They really get us up for the game, as soon as we come out for the warm-up, the away fans are singing already.
“It was a great win again and we are happy to do that for us and for the fans as well and it turned out to be a brilliant away win!”
What a goal, too, cutting in from the right and scoring with your left foot?
“It’s all about confidence. There are times when I get the ball out wide and my opponent is there and although I want to cross it with my right, sometimes I don’t think it and I’ve got a left foot I can use and I can cut in and add a different dimension.
“The space opened up and I just wanted to place it and thankfully it was pacey enough and it beat the ‘keeper.”
It looks like, with regular game time, your own game is really going up a level?
“You could say that. To be fair, it’s testament to the manager to be honest. When I’ve been out of the team, he’s always prepared me as if I am playing.
“Of course, I’m playing under Vlad and Ryan on the right and obviously Cress on the left, working with them and seeing what they do well is something that’s helped me a lot.
“Sometimes last year, could I have been ready to come in? We don’t know, but now I think I’ve seized the opportunity and wanted to enjoy my football, which is what I’ve always done. When you get to the big boys, why not enjoy it?”
And you weren’t the only Academy graduate to get his name on the scoresheet, with Dec also netting to put us 2-1 up just before half-time?
“When Dec’s one went in, it was sort of a relief because the game just kept changing. I thought we dominated the game in periods in periods, even though we were sloppy at times, but they were dangerous at times, so when Dec’s goal went in it settled the nerves a bit. Then thankfully we got two more in the second half.”
We were sloppy at times, as you say, but Manu came on and he seemed to really settle us down, and we went on to score two late goals to make it comfortable in the end?
“I think some games, you’re going to be sloppy at times. As players, we don’t want to be sloppy, but sometimes it happens and we need to think a bit quicker and think about the game more and not get caught up in the anxiety of everything.
“Bringing Manu on, we know the player he is. He’s been here for a few years and he settles us down, he beats a man and he creates and that’s what he did today, so testament to him.”
That’s five wins in a row in the space of 15 days. Now, we have two more away to Genk and home to Liverpool before we go into the November international break…
“We’ve got two more games. This was the fifth game in two weeks so it’s been gruelling on the body, but mentally we’re feeling fresh, so we’ll go back on Tuesday and prepare for Genk.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game. They came to us and even though the result was 3-0, they were dangerous. They played in behind and it was difficult as they’ve got good players.
“We need to go there and do our jobs again.”