Average performances all over the pitch ended Spalding United’s unbeaten start to the league campaign.
The Tulips’ man-of-the-match award was an easy decision after Michael Duggan’s first-half saves.
Although his third stop conceded the corner which led to Leek Town’s winner, Duggan was given no chance of keeping out the far-post header by Toby Mullarkey.
Duggan denied Tim Grice twice inside the opening 10 minutes and Dan Shelley’s lob went narrowly wide.
So it was no real surprise when Leek went ahead by taking full advantage of poor defending from Jake Dunwoody’s set-piece.
Duggan had pushed out Grice’s angled drive on the half-hour mark just moments before the only goal of a poor game lacking in quality.
At the other end, the Tulips never tested Ben Chapman – only threatening from Matt Varley’s long throw-ins which caused plenty of problems.
In open play, though, the league leaders couldn’t create clear-cut chances.
Five minutes before the break, Spalding seemed to be unfortunate as Jenk Acar’s penalty appeal was rejected.
It was certainly a better claim than another one much later as Nathan Stainfield took a tumble from Jordan Lemon’s free-kick.
By that stage, the Tulips were getting desperate but they tried everything and it simply wasn’t to be.
The formation changed at the start of the second half and there was another tactical switch for the closing stages.
Danny Durkin, making his debut, wanted too much time for a shot on goal and Acar’s follow-up was also blocked by a defender.
Substitute Jonny Lockie saw an effort deflected wide soon after a far-post attempt went too high.
The best opportunity was virtually the final kick of the game as Lemon latched onto a flick and beat Chapman but the ball bounced off the post.
That meant Leek’s 10 men had survived stoppage-time following the dismissal of skipper Niall Maguire for a crude challenge on Lockie.
Surprisingly, there were no yellow cards after the foul sparked a mass brawl.
Duggan went forward for the free-kick and Stainfield stayed up front but it was all too little, too late.
Overall, Spalding’s display was not good enough to keep them on top of the table.
Leek came with a plan and it worked. The key factor for the Tulips will be finding a way to break down teams by delivering extra quality.
4-1-4-1: Duggan 8; Lemon 6, Walker 6, Stainfield 6, Field 6; Varley 6; Durkin 5 (sub Lockie 68 mins, 6), Wright 6, Higginson 6 (sub Downey h-t, 6), Acar 6; Wells 7. Subs not used: Cullingworth, Barker, Henderson.
4-2-3-1: Chapman; Faulkner, Mullarkey, Chadwick, Morris; Maguire, Danylyk; Grice, Dunwoody (sub Curley 86 mins), Shelley (sub France 77 mins); Budrys. Subs not used: Bridge, Donnelly, Martin.
Mullarkey (30 mins, 0-1).
Maguire (serious foul play).
Wells (dissent); Budrys (foul); France (kicking ball away).
Michael Duggan – hat-trick of first-half saves at least kept alive some chance of a fightback and he was given no chance with the close-range winner. He was the only home player who put in a performance above average.
Sheffield (A) – Saturday.