ACCRINGTON Stanley manager John Coleman was left counting the cost of an early FA Cup exit, and not just financially.

A last-minute winner against Huddersfield and penalty shoot-out success against Bournemouth were just distant memories as the Reds crashed out of the competition before the first round proper, missing out on a £10,000 windfall.

But they couldn't really have too many complaints after another below par performance.

Despite plenty of possession and several good chances, Stanley never looked like having the killer instinct needed to break a depleted Leigh side down.

A virus that had swept through the Railwaymen's camp had stretched the squad to its limits and meant they were only able to name four substitutes, while player-manager Phil Starbuck made his first start of the season.

But what they lacked in numbers they made up for in stubbornness and determination, and when Chris Simm headed them in front on 25 minutes it was difficult to see where Stanley would find a way back.

After the trusted 4-5-1 system failed to bear fruit in recent weeks, Coleman got into a premature festive mood with a 'Christmas tree' line-up, with Paul Cook and Ian Craney sitting just behind lone striker Paul Mullin.

But the alternative system wasn't the problem. Stanley simply lacked spark and creativity.

Craney was busy around the box but the magic touch to make possession count had deserted him. The 22-year-old was also guilty of shooting from range instead of searching for other options to carve out openings in and around the area.

Paul Cook went close with a free kick before finding Mullin from one of several potent corners, only to see the striker's header cannon off the crossbar.

But there were few real surprises when Leigh took the lead just over 10 minutes later as the warning signs were clear as early as the third minute.

Starbuck's men gave an indication of their intentions when former Stanley player Gary Williams almost capitalised on a quick dart down the right.

However, when Chris Lane whipped in a centre from the right on 25 minutes, goalkeeper Danny Alcock was rooted to his line and an unchallenged Simm nodded his side in front from inside the six-yard box.

The visitors had little to offer in attack after that, whereas Stanley had countless chances to at least nick an equaliser before the break.

Craney lacked the confidence to take on former Burnley goalkeeper Paul Crichton in a one-on-one, and by the time he opted to square for Cook, the defence had recovered and Crichton smothered his low drive.

Mike Flynn then went close with a downward header, Mullin had appeals for a penalty waved away after being bundled over and Smith punched the ground in frustration after directing a free header wide.

Alcock, meanwhile, had only had one save to make when Simm forced him into a two-handed stop eight minutes before the break.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man as transfer-listed striker Lutel James replaced Andy Procter in the 61st minute, much to the delight of the Stanley fans who had been chanting his name.

And while the the 32-year-old looked set to provide the X factor the Reds had been missing, Karl Rose proved to be a thorn in their side.

The Leigh defender had required heavy bandaging early in the second half after coming off worst in a clash of heads with Smith. But that didn't stop him from getting his head in the way of all the aerial attacks Stanley attempted before the home side were again caught out on the break.

Goalkeeper Alcock advanced as Simm burst into the box and dived at the striker's feet, appearing to make contact with the ball. But the referee pointed to the spot, and captain courageous Rose stepped up to bury it down the middle.

James was twice denied the chance to get his side back into the game, but Leigh wasted even better oppotunities to put the tie beyond doubt.

Rose might have been the bloody hero for Leigh, but Stanley will have to sweat blood to right the wrongs as soon as possible.