MIKE Williamson was encouraged with the way Oxford United knuckled down to claim a hard-earned point at Southend United.

Wes Thomas struck two minutes after Simon Cox’s first-half opener for the home side to earn a 1-1 draw.

One criticism of Pep Clotet’s side has been that while they have often impressed going forward, they have struggled to grind out results.

But United held firm under increasing pressure late on to protect a point.

Williamson, who made his first league start since September, said: “It’s not a cliché, successful teams have got to do both sides of the game well.

“You can see the abundance of attacking players we’ve got with fantastic ability.

“We have no problem opening teams up, we demonstrated that, but it’s about doing the nitty-gritty, that ugly part we talk about which is slightly harder to do.

“It’s a big step in the right direction.

“The gaffer said before the game it would be about characters, it wasn’t going to be about pretty football.

“We had to put our bodies on the line through periods.”

While the U’s rode their luck at times, the resilience was especially timely coming four days after they fell 3-0 down after 22 minutes against Blackburn Rovers.

Williamson had watched the 4-2 defeat from the sidelines as an unused substitute.

He said: “Blackburn are a fantastic team and must have one of the biggest budgets.

“They’ve got a lot of good players and that can happen to anyone on the day.

“But the gaffer is all about keeping the lads positive.

“We’ve got a lot of youth so you have to keep their heads straight and it’s all about bouncing back.”

“We’ve got a lot of injuries at the minute, so it’s been a testing period.”