IT'S been a long-time coming but Paul Rutherford finally gets to experience the thrill of the play-offs tonight.

Wrexham face Eastleigh at The Racecourse in a preliminary round tie, the first of three games which the Reds will need to win to secure a place in the Football League.

Promotion won't be clinched this evening but experienced winger Rutherford, used to scrapping it out at the other end of the table at previous clubs Southport, Barrow and Chester, is relishing being involved in the end of season knock-out.

And the 31-year-old hopes the Spitfires clash is the first step towards realising his dream.

"It is unbelievable for me. It is the first time I have ever experienced the play-offs and I have been playing football now for 15 years," said Rutherford.

"I want to prove to everyone that I am a winner. I don't want to be in the Conference, I want to be in the Football League and I want to achieve things.

"I want that promotion on my CV, it is something for me to talk to the kids about.

"It means everything to me and I want to make sure that we achieve it."

Rutherford joined Wrexham in the summer of 2016 and his first campaign ended with a mid-table finish after hovering dangerously above the relegation zone before the Reds missed out on a top-seven finish last term following a woeful run-in.

The title challenge faded this season but Rutherford says Wrexham securing a play-off berth for the first time in six years is a sign of progress.

"It's a step closer to where we all want to be," said Rutherford. "I am over the moon that we have achieved the play-offs.

"It is something that we have progressed towards over the last couple of seasons.

"Considering where we were in my first season here, it is a big jump forward. For much of that season we were talking about relegation.

"Last year I thought was going to be the year, it was disappointing how it finished but this year we have stayed at it and barring a couple of fine margins and a couple of performances here and there, it could have been a lot sweeter for us.

"But we are made up that we are in the position we are in; we have got a home tie with Eastleigh and it is something that we are all looking forward to."

Four wins in the last five games helped Wrexham finish fourth in the National League and start the play-offs at The Racecourse.

Wrexham boast the best home record in the division but Rutherford will not be complacent against Eastleigh.

"We are in good form and our home record is the best in the division," said Rutherford. "This place has been a fortress for a long time. "I think we are the favourites but that is taking absolutely nothing for granted.

"It is a one-off game, Eastleigh will fancy their chances; they'll have been working on us and thinking they can exploit certain areas, just as we will with them.

"Hopefully we are the ones who come out on top on the day."

The winners advance to a semi-final at Salford City on Sunday but Rutherford is looking no further than Eastleigh.

"It is a big incentive for us," said Rutherford. "We have got a lot of history with Salford so far already this season.

"We had a good performance against them here and it was a disappointing result at their place, but we learnt a lot from it and it puts us in good stead.

"But we have got the first obstacle with Eastleigh and we are certainly not taking that lightly. It is a challenge we are excited for."