PAUL RUTHERFORD is driven on by the heartbreak of last season's failed promotion challenge and is determined not to let the same thing happen again.

Wrexham were well placed when Dean Keates left to take charge of Walsall last March but the Reds endured a woeful run-in and eventually finished 10th in the National League.

Fast forward 12 months and Bryan Hughes' side were top of the table at the start of the month but three defeats in four outings has seen the Reds drop down to third position, four points behind leaders Leyton Orient who have two games in hand.

Wrexham have six games remaining, starting with tomorrow's trip to Ebbsfleet, and Rutherford has vowed to make sure his side secure at least a play-off spot.

"I am an optimist and I always look to learn from difficult situations so I looked to learn from last year," said Rutherford.

"That last game against Fylde, it was soul destroying at the end knowing that our season was finished at that point after we'd worked so hard and put so much into it.

"I will do anything possible to make sure I don't face that feeling again this year. I want to be in the play-off mix."

Rutherford hasn't admitted defeat in the title race but admits Orient are the team to catch.

With teams that finish second and third avoiding a preliminary round game in the play-off and advancing to a home semi-final tie, the winger knows finishing as high as possible has its rewards.

"If we are speaking really candidly, it would take a disaster from Orient to not win the title," said Rutherford.

"They are clear favourites. My objective now, and I think it is shared with a lot of the lads and staff, is we want to finish as high as possible.

"We want to finish second or third to give ourselves the best chance going into the play-offs.

"In a one-off game at The Racecourse, I would fancy us to beat anyone and hopefully on the back of that you're at Wembley."

However, Rutherford knows Wrexham still have work to do to ensure they secure at least a play-off spot.

"I am not taking anything for granted, we have got to go and win games in the league before we start entertaining all that but we have got to think positively," said Rutherford.

"Our mindset has got to be that we can still achieve promotion whether it is the tough way or the easy way - we have got to find a way to make it happen."

Wrexham continue their challenge for honours against play-off hopefuls Ebbsfleet at Stonebridge Road.

The Reds will be looking to bounce back from their latest defeat when they went down 1-0 at mid-table Hartlepool last weekend, a 25th minute penalty separating the sides with Hughes' side producing a poor performance.

But Rutherford isn't sulking knowing there is still a lot at stake going down the final straight.

"It was a little bit of a kick in the teeth," said Rutherford.

"I don't think the performance levels were fully there and we never really got going. It was a tough one to take.

"I said there were going to be set-backs along the way and it would be a rollercoaster ride - if there is a difficult way to do things, then we usually find it!

"It is disappointing but we have still got loads to play for."