WREXHAM are planning for another season of non-league football but Dean Keates believes his players deserve credit for taking the promotion challenge down to the wire amidst the uncertainty over their futures.

The Reds will not be contesting the play-offs following Saturday's 1-1 draw against Dagenham and Redbridge at Victoria Road.

Five clubs were battling for the final two spots and with the Reds sitting sixth at the start of play, they knew victory would guarantee a top-seven finish.

However, failure to pick up three points and results elsewhere meant Wrexham finished eighth, one point away from a play-off berth.

Although they fell short and the club will now be planning for a 14th campaign in the fifth tier, Keates felt the players should be praised for their efforts with the majority of their futures being up in the air and unsure whether they will remain at The Racecourse.

"I have had players in asking about their future but not been able to give them straight answers or any clarity on anything," said Keates in his last interview before being told he was not being offered a new contract and has left The Racecourse.

"When I have got players coming into my office asking what is happening, and I can see the fear and the concern in their eyes, to still keep going speaks volumes about the team's character.

"Even down to 10 men, the character that they showed, they kept going and we nearly nicked something towards the end.

"I can't speak highly enough of my changing room; I have got a lot of players concerned about their futures, staff members, and there are answers I can't give.

"There are players at the club who have got the option in their favour to still be here for next season and they want to know what is happening with the football club going forward."

Keates insists nearly two-thirds of the sides in non-league's top-flight have bigger budgets than Wrexham but says the Reds did their best to compete on the pitch with the big-payers.

"Looking at the National League and the top 15 teams, we wouldn't be in there with the budget," said Keates.

"As a football club we are - we are one of the big teams in the division with the likes of Stockport, Notts County and Chesterfield, with fanbase and size of the club.

"But the finances for this season are nowhere near.

"We have done our best, we had players out there today who wouldn't even be on minimum wage so I can't fault the effort that the players have given to stay mentally switched on and focussed up until the last game of the season.

"A weaker changing room would have fallen apart a few weeks ago."

Keates feels huge strides have been made this term after Wrexham only just avoided relegation in 2019-20 when the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic and the final table was calculated using a Points Per Game method.

And he feels there were "two big games" where the Reds registered draws from winning positions that proved costly with valuable points dropped.

"There has been massive progression from what happened last season," said Keates.

"It was a rebuild and we knew it was going to take time.

"You don't miss out on one game. You miss out over the course of the season and there are two big games for me that stick out.

"Dagenham at home, 2-0 up and in control of the football match but not making the right decisions in the last few minutes and sloppy play.

"And down at Eastleigh, 1-0 up, comfortable and an absolute horrendous decision by the referee for the penalty.

"I have had it confirmed off the referees' association that it shouldn't have been a penalty so two points dropped there.

"Massive disappointment but big progression."