MIKE Williamson praised Oxford United’s discipline for the way they dug out a hard-fought point in testing conditions at Rochdale.

The visitors had to withstand plenty of pressure at Spotland, where attractive football was virtually impossible on a playing surface which began to freeze.

While they created very little themselves, United were defensively robust to claim a draw which saw them move to within four points of the Sky Bet League One play-offs.

As a centre half, Williamson relished the challenge.

“Oh yeah, the spirit of the battle and the physicality,” he said.

“But it was more about organising the shape of the team, because you can’t always necessarily win the first contact in these games, but it’s making sure we pick up the second balls. We did that well.

“The conditions, the weather, the atmosphere, the physicality of the team – it all made for a difficult afternoon.

“Credit to the lads that we did the ugly parts. It’s a good point.”

U’s goalkeeper Simon Eastwood needed to be on top form to keep out Dale, who belied their lowly position in the table.

A hat-trick of saves before the break was followed by another fine stop just after half-time.

And on the one occasion he was beaten, when a weak punch presented a chance to Callum Camps, Williamson was alert to the danger and headed off the line.

He said: “Easty was fantastic and made three outstanding saves in the first half. He’s done that all season.

“I just sensed I needed to get back and was luckily able to clear it off the line.”

The clean sheet was further evidence United were making progress defensively, which has been an Achilles heel at times this season.

Since conceding three goals in the opening 20 minutes against Blackburn Rovers last month, United’s defence has been breached from open play just once in four games.

Williamson said: “Goals win games, but clean sheets build successful seasons.

“That’s what we try to do every game, build on the point we’ve got.

“You’ve got to stay tight as a unit.

“The gaffer sets a game plan and sometimes with the emotion of a game we can get carried away and lose our shape, but I think in the last few games we’ve executed it well.”