WITH one crunching tackle, Jamie Hanson summed up everything about this Oxford United performance.

The right back’s 59th-minute challenge on Mickel Miller left the Rotherham United man in a heap, drawing a roar of approval from the home fans and anger in the away dugout.

Hanson may not even have been in the squad in normal circumstances, but stepped up when the U’s needed him to deliver a fully committed performance.

The same can be said of every United player, as they defied their depleted ranks to claim a hard-fought point against the Sky Bet League One leaders.

RATINGS: What we thought of every Oxford United player

It was a display that matched the day: the Kassam Stadium's open end meant there was no hiding from the bitterly cold wind, which did not lend itself to pretty football.

On what should be the final game without United's isolating players, it was just about getting through. A heroic defeat would have been understandable, so anything more was a bonus.

In Hanson, Sam Long, Luke McNally and Steve Seddon you had a back four that is not afraid to put itself about, with the latter's booking ruling him out of next Saturday's trip to Sunderland.

The lack of left back cover would have made that seem a disaster before this week, but after seeing the U's battle to four points with almost half their squad missing it now somehow feels less of an issue.

McNally was especially excellent and utilised the physical attributes that show why he caught United's eye: the pace to race back and slide in on Freddie Ladapo, the aerial ability and strength to win countless headers.

WATCH: Highlights of yesterday's game

Admittedly, on another day Rotherham would have been at least two up at half-time, as Michael Smith and Freddie Ladapo - who have 21 goals between them this season - got their angles ever so slightly wrong from first-half headers.

It was a United display unlike any we have seen at home, as they looked for long balls more often than normal to play to the strengths of Gavin Whyte up front and Storm Arwen.

This is why Herbie Kane is so crucial to this team. He can mix it defensively and chipped in with several tackles and interceptions, before instantly making a forward pass with his second touch.

It gives Cameron Brannagan more freedom and it is no coincidence the No 8 is playing out of his skin with his former Liverpool academy teammate working to his strengths.

REACTION: Karl Robinson on Rotherham draw and that Jamie Hanson tackle

After they were a touch fortunate to reach half-time at 0-0, you feared a draining week and lack of resources would catch up with United the longer the match went on.

The game plan worked to perfection, though. After surviving a flurry of Rotherham chances early in the second half, the U's started to take more risks after the hour mark and finished stronger than they had any right to, given the mental and physical toll of the last nine days.

The volume increased after that Hanson tackle and it only added to the siege mentality, as United battled to the most entertaining of 0-0 draws.

For all the talk of Rotherham's unbeaten streak, the U's are now six games unbeaten in League One.

That run has included two battling stalemates, the other at Ipswich Town, alongside four wins.

United are showing they can adapt to grind out a result - when was the last season we could truthfully say that?