Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's second tenure as Burton Albion manager got off to the perfect start on Saturday as his Brewers side beat Gillingham 1-0, who have now lost five of their last six league games.
A first-half strike was enough to earn the visitors all three points - it is unclear if Hayden Carter put the ball in from Joe Powell's free-kick or if it was a Kyle Dempsey own goal, but Hasselbaink won't care one jot, as his reign started on a positive note in Kent.
Story of the match
The game started even, but Burton had the first shot of the game when Kane Hemmings curled an effort wide from just inside the box after Kyle Dempsey was dispossessed. A couple of Brewers crosses then went wayward, as both teams struggled to gain a foothold on the game.
Gillingham began to apply some good pressure just after the 10-minute mark, with Kyle Dempsey, Jordan Graham and debutant Tyreke Johnson all putting crosses into the Albion box, but the away defence stood firm.
A shot from Joe Powell was then deflected over by Connor Ogilvie, but the visitors’ crossing into the box was letting them down, as the resulting corner came to nothing.
The game continued to move forward without any real chances. Ben Garratt gathered a tame effort from Robbie McKenzie before Vadaine Oliver put the ball in the net for the Gills, but the big forward was well offside when the ball was played.
Just after the half-hour mark, Burton took the lead. A simple free kick from Joe Powell wasn’t defended by the Gills and Jack Bonham was fooled in the Gills goal as the ball flew past him. The Burton players celebrated with new signing Hayden Carter, but it looked as if Gills captain Kyle Dempsey had put the ball into his own net.
The Brewers closed out the half nicely as frustration grew for Gillingham. As the game entered the break, Burton were well worth their lead – and it was another more than disappointing first-half showing from the Gills.
Gillingham manager Steve Evans made a double change at half-time, with Jack Tucker and John Akinde replacing Declan Drysdale and Scott Robertson.
The second half started with the same pattern as the first, however. Kane Hemmings latched onto a smart through ball and had a clean run at goal, but Tucker recovered well to get back and tackle the forward.
Oliver made way for Alex MacDonald on the hour mark, leaving Akinde up front on his own, but the former Lincoln City man missed what could easily be called a sitter soon after Oliver’s departure – poking over from five yards completely unmarked.
Gillingham soon began to bombard to Burton area. MacDonald had a shot blocked as Ben Garratt clawed away a cross, and Burton had their back to the walls going into the final 20 minutes.
The Gills continued to pile on the pressure and Garratt had to produce a fine save to deny a Connor Ogilvie header. Carter then had to clear off the line when Garratt flapped at a cross, and the score somehow stayed at 1-0.
John Akinde should have, without doubt, pulled Gillingham level in added time. If his previous chance wasn't a site then this one was - the ball fell to the forward what must've been no more than five yards from goal, but Garratt denied him at point-blank range before Tom O'Connor fired the rebound over.
Gillingham continued to push but couldn't find a way past a resilient Burton defence, and Hasselbaink's second reign got off to a winning start.
Takeaways from the match
Slow start again from Gills
A poor first 45 minutes have been far too a regular occurrence for the Gills lately and that’s exactly what they produced again here. It was lacklustre and they looked void of ideas against the division’s bottom side and worst defence.
It is an issue manager Steve Evans needs to fix, and quick.
Burton defend well
Hasselbaink has made it clear that clean sheets are his priority and that was clear to see on the pitch as Burton kept their first clean sheet of the season. The addition of Carter helped, but Albion pressed well, stayed relatively solid and defended for their lives when they had to. The new manager will be more than pleased.
It is no coincidence that Burton looked a lot sturdier defensively on Carter’s debut. The Blackburn Rovers loanee slotted into central defence perfectly and may even be credited with Burton’s goal.
His presence could be key for Albion for the remainder of the season.
Hemmings is Burton’s top scorer this season and it is clear to see why. The forward didn’t find the net here, but he caused Gillingham’s centre backs plenty of problems all game and kept them occupied.
With an improved defence and Hemmings up top, Burton may be able to drag themselves out of trouble yet.
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Drysdale (Tucker 46), Ogilvie, O’Connor, McKenzie (Willock 85), Robertson (Akinde 46), Graham, Dempsey, Johnson, Oliver (MacDonald 60).
Subs not used: Walsh, O’Keefe, Mellis.
Burton: Garratt, Brayford, O’Toole, Wallace, Akins, Gallacher, Edwards, Carter, Daniel, Hemmings (Varney 85), Powell (Quinn 74).
Subs not used: O’Hara, Lawless, Vernam, Eardley, Gilligan.