WHILE it may not have been the dominant display that Braintree Town wanted, goalkeeper Michael Johnson felt the way the Iron battled to keep a clean sheet against Oxford City showed how their defensive unit is developing.

Shutting an opposition out for the third time this season proved just as crucial in gaining three points as Ade Cole's first half penalty as the Iron won 1-0 to move up to fifth in the Vanarama National League South table.

With Braintree unable to press City back in the second half, a resolute and disciplined defensive performance was vital and Johnson was pleased to record another clean sheet, despite acknowledging that they hadn't been at their best over the 90 minutes.

He said: “Sometimes across a season you are not going to turn up and play exceptionally in every single game and that was one of those days.

“We had to dig in and a clean sheet was so important.

“If you do that, you know you have a chance to win the game and that’s what happened.

“They probably deserved to win it quite comfortably if I’m honest, but we nicked it.

“It shows how we have improved defensively and it was good to prove a point after the Enfield (FA Cup) game.

“If we weren’t going to do it by playing free-flowing football and scoring multiple goals, then it was going to come by not conceding and winning the game.

“That was the most important thing.

“We are not going to keep clean sheets every game so we have to keep working at it.

“It will get better and better but the signs from the Oxford game are that it is getting better.

“At half-time, we said we needed to keep our shape and be hard to break down because we could see that it wasn’t working for us going the other way.

“I did have to make a few saves but the boys made sure I was kept relatively quiet and that’s credit to them because they worked their socks off and out real shifts in.

“As a keeper, you can’t ask for much more than that and when you are called on, you have to bail them out because they bail me out enough.

“I’d definitely say we are getting better as a defensive unit."

Johnson has been in impressive form since his summer switch to Braintree from Hitchin Town and has been an integral part of their move into the top five in the Vanarama National League South standings.

It has been a solid start to life under manager Glen Driver and one that may have surprised some after the amount of squad building that was required over the summer, however, the Iron keeper insists that there is far more to come from Braintree.

Johnson added: “It’s 12 games in for us now and the picture is starting to be painted about how the league is going to pan out.

“It’s much better to be fifth than fifth-from-bottom right now, but we haven’t played near what we actually can in a lot of games so far this season.

“It has been 45 minutes here and 45 minutes there.

“Take away the Eastbourne and St Albans games and it has literally been that way with 45 minutes here and there.

“But after the Oxford game, I said to the lads to look where we are in the table knowing there is so much more to improve on and knowing there is so much more to come from us.

“We’re where we are and if everyone buys into what is going on here then the only way is up."