Published: 16:45, 15 January 2022
| Updated: 20:46, 16 January 2022
Gillingham’s early goal counted for nothing as visitors Burton Albion fought back to take all three points at Priestfield.
Robbie McKenzie fired home after just three minutes to give Gills’ caretaker boss Steve Lovell a dream start but Burton levelled it up shortly after the restart and won it with late goals from John Brayford and Jonny Smith.
Lovell made five changes to his starting XI as the midfield department had a fresh look. Despite a promising start the Gills ended up beaten once again.
Kyle Dempsey returned from injury, Ben Reeves was handed only his third league start for the club and Olly Lee was back in from the cold. Returning striker Charlie Kelman was involved from the off after rejoining from QPR.
The other change for the Gills saw keeper Pontus Dahlberg make his debut after replacing departed Jamie Cumming.
Chairman Paul Scally had said prior to the match that a cloud had been lifted at the club following Steve Evans’ departure last week. The Gills started the afternoon seven points adrift inside the relegation zone.
Lovell, assisted on the touchline by injured player Alex MacDonald, got plenty of support from the Gills fans at Priestfield. The pair were celebrating a goal after just three minutes.
Following a determined and energetic start, the Gills won a corner and when Lee found Dempsey the skipper fired at goal through a crowded area. Keeper Ben Garratt saved well but couldn’t hold on and McKenzie was on hand to score the opener.
Gillingham kept up the momentum but were unable to add to their tally before Burton put some pressure on themselves without managing to test new keeper Dahlberg. He showed good hands to take a couple of set-piece deliveries from former Gill Tommy O’Connor. His only save of the half was from Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, the big Swedish stopper getting down well to save even though the whistle had long gone for an infringement.
Burton made a lively opening to the second half and were back on level terms within five minutes of the restart. A deep cross from Borthwick-Jackson was met by Tom Hamer and his header looped over the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
Gillingham responded to the goal well, Lee forcing goalkeeper Garratt into tipping over a 30-yarder and moments later another pop from distance was deflected wide. From the corner Jack Tucker volleyed over and another chance, this time for Dempsey, was hit wide. Oliver also headed an effort the wrong side of the post.
Opportunities for the Gills kept coming and substitute Danny Lloyd blazed the ball wide.
Burton had a sniff from a cross that Dahlberg dealt with well, stopping a header from Gassan Ahadme, but the Gills were soon back at the other in search of their second.
It was the visitors who got their noses infront with 11 minutes left. Joe Powell ran onto a ball down the line and whipped in a cross, Tucker was unable to get much of a contact on the clearance and the ball popped up invitingly for Brayford to nod home.
Burton sealed the points with three minutes left, Smith slotting in from close range after running onto a low cross.
Gillingham: Dahlberg, Jackson, McKenzie (Tutonda 76mins), Tucker, Ehmer, O’Keefe (Lloyd 59mins), Dempsey, Reeves, Lee, Oliver, Kelman. Subs: Chapman, Bennett, Dickson-Peters, Akinde, Carayol.
Burton: Garratt, Brayford, Borthwick-Jackson, Oshilaja, Powell, Ahadme, Hughes, O’Connor (Lakin 74mins), Jebbison (Smith 86mins), Taylor, Hamer. Subs: Hawkins, Kokolo, Leak, Moult, Mancienne.
Referee: Thomas Bramall
Attendance: 4,198 (123 away)