Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce has insisted that Sam Johnstone is growing in confidence on loan at Villa Park after the 23-year-old picked up another clean sheet during a 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday over the weekend.
Johnstone, yet to make a senior appearance for Man United, was sent out on loan to the Championship side over the January transfer period until the end of the season.
He endured a difficult start to life under Bruce, conceding ten goals in his opening five games, but has since gone on to make four clean sheets in his last five appearances.
And Bruce, speaking after the win over Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, was quick to praise Johnstone for his recent resurgence between the sticks.
“I was very pleased with the clean sheet. It was vitally important,” he said.
“Our goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone, is growing in confidence with every game. That’s now four clean sheets in five games. That gives you the platform. There’s a resilience there with the lads at the back.
“We are seeing a spirt throughout the squad – they are showing it really means something.
“I think Sam is an exceptionally good young goalkeeper. He works tirelessly – he works and works and works. I was pleased for him.”
Johnstone’s spell at Aston Villa serves as his first taste of Championship football. He has enjoyed brief spells at Oldham, Scunthorpe, Walsall, Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers and Preston North End, but the dynamic this time around is different. Life in the second tier of English can be just as gruesome as it is enthralling: a constant stream of games, a more direct style, a greater number of defensive errors – a real sink or swim environment for emerging youngsters.
But Johnstone, following a sticky teething process, has now started to demonstrate signs of adapting to the throes of Championship football, and supporters will hope to see him return for pre-season with a renewed sense of boldness between the sticks.