PAUL RUTHERFORD says the FA Cup is a welcome distraction from the demands of a promotion push.

Wrexham have emerged as one of the National League frontrunners and are well placed with almost half of the season gone.

Sam Ricketts insisted he was also taking the cup seriously and Wrexham have overcome Harrogate Town and Weston-super-Mare to set up a second round tie against Newport County, and Rutherford is enjoying being involved in the competition.

"Whatever way you look at a cup competition, you can make of it what you want," said Rutherford.

"Certainly in this instance it is a welcome distraction and it is a little bit of respite from what is a hectic campaign in the league.

"Make no mistake, there is pressure involved with being top of the league and having an FA Cup game is a little bit of respite from the rigours of the league."

As well as being an all Welsh tie, there is added spice on the encounter as Wrexham missed out on promotion to the Football League after losing 2-0 to Newport in the 2013 play-off final at Wembley.

Rutherford is hoping to make the most of home advantage as the Reds chase a place in the third round.

"Playing against Newport in an all-Welsh game in the FA Cup, and it was Newport who beat Wrexham in the play-off final, it all adds to make it a special occasion," said Rutherford.

"And with it being here at The Racecourse, it really lends itself to us.

"In my opinion, I don't really see too much difference between League Two and the Conference.

"It will be a good test for us to see what the real difference is and to test ourselves against higher ranked opposition."

Rutherford is no stranger to being involved in the third round having twice reached that stage of the competition with previous clubs Barrow and Southport.

Although Barrow were beaten 3-0 by Sunderland in 2010, Southport were heading for a replay after holding Derby County five years later but disaster struck in added time.

"I have been fortunate in my career to have two trips in the third round to Derby and Sunderland," said Rutherford. "Both of those are occasions that live with you.

"We were drawing 0-0 at Derby until the 91st minute and it was heartbreak.

"It was backs to the wall, we were never really in the game and Derby were top of the Championship at that point.

"The referee gave a penalty in the 92nd minute and it was horrible, the lowest I have ever been on a football pitch.

"If we get past Newport and get a big boy in the third round, it is something you can take forward for the rest of your life."

Rutherford believes Wrexham are heading in the right direction and feels Ricketts has put together a side that offers a lot more going forward whilst remaining solid at the back.

"The gaffer has come in with a slightly different playing philosophy and you can see now in games that we are asserting ourselves upon teams a lot more," added Rutherford.

"Last year we were sort of dogged, not necessarily just hanging on but we were built around a solid defence.

"We have kept a solid defence this year but also added slightly more going forward and slightly more control in games where we can assert ourselves.

"As a playing squad and a club, we are in a much better place."