Published: 06:00, 30 April 2021
Gillingham’s hopes of ending the season with a bang won’t be made easy by a Burton team who have been transformed under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Their Dutch boss returned to the club in January - a club he guided to the League 2 title and top of League 1 before leaving for QPR - and has taken a team who had won just two games out of 21 and sitting bottom of the table to mid-table safety, well clear of the battle below.
Gillingham have pride to play for in their last two matches, with their play-off challenge all but mathematically over. Assistant manager Paul Raynor admits he thought their weekend opponents were destined for League 2.
“I thought they were dead and buried,” said the Gills no.2.
“We were talking about another three from six or seven to join Burton (in being relegated), it was that bad when he came in, they were so far adrift, I thought they were well gone, but we knew Jimmy would get them going.
“He is an experienced guy, was a top player and has done very well in management. We felt there would be a response and it has been absolutely unbelievable. If he had come in at the start of the season they would be challenging for the play-offs. Credit to Jimmy.”
The Gills have just fallen short of the play-offs, not helped after dropping points from winning positions against Oxford United and Northampton Town in recent games.
It’s been a blow for the players but training has remained full-on said the assistant.
He said: “I wouldn't say it has been flat because that would be wrong, our guys train 100% every day, we demand that from them but I think there is a hint of disappointment and a hint of frustration which there was always going to be.
“It has been a big couple of weeks, we had the highs of Peterborough and a fantastic victory there, which was well earned, and we have had the lows of Oxford late on and Saturday was a real kick in the teeth (against Northampton) from a great platform. You could sense that disappointment.
“We will look back and think, ‘what if we had beaten Oxford, what if we had have hung on against Northampton’. We are going to get that through the summer but we will be working hard throughout the summer to make sure there are no ifs or buts next season.”
Gillingham will be keen to finish as high as they can, attempting to better their 10th place finish from the previous campaign.
Raynor said: “We had a chat with the guys, sat them down and told them we want six points, let’s be as high as we possibly can and then we can talk about what ifs.
“We go to Burton who are on a very good run, Jimmy has them playing some good stuff, let’s get three points there and then look ahead to the final game of the season and finish with a good finale.”
Young forward Gerald Sithole picked up a knock playing for the youth team on Tuesday night and is a doubt while defender Robbie Cundy hasn’t 100% recovered from a recent injury. Both will be assessed in training on Friday.