Tributes paid to Doncaster's Billy Sharp after baby tragedy

Billy Sharp with his Doncaster team
Sharp (in centre, wearing 10) paid tribute to his son before kick-off

Tributes have been paid to Doncaster striker Billy Sharp after he played and scored against Middlesbrough three days after the death of his newborn son.

Sharp led a minute's applause before Tuesday's 3-1 defeat by Middlesbrough, in which he scored the opening goal.

Afterwards, Sharp wrote on Twitter: "My goal tonight was the most important of my career dedicated to my brave boy Luey Jacob Sharp. I love you son.

"I was crying [during] the minute's applause. Thanks to both sets of fans."

Other tributes made on the site include one from ex-Ipswich player Matt Holland.

He wrote: "Thoughts are with Billy Sharp and his partner tonight after losing 2 day old son. Very brave to play. #RIP"

The 25-year-old striker missed Doncaster's draw against Coventry last weekend and was not expected to play against Middlesbrough after the death of his two-day-old son Luey on Saturday.

But after being handed the captain's armband, and scoring in the 14th minute for Dean Saunders' side, Sharp lifted up his Doncaster shirt to reveal a T-shirt that read: "That's for you, son."

The action of revealing a message on a T-shirt is usually followed by a yellow card, so referee Darren Deadman was praised by the crowd for not applying the letter of the law on this occasion.

Rovers' subsequent defeat was almost forgotten as fans and players took to Twitter and Facebook to pay tribute to the Sheffield-born player.

Rio Ferdinand, former Aston Villa midfielder Ian Taylor and former England striker Stan Collymore were among thousands of well-wishers who saluted the bravery of Sharp for taking to the field after such a tragic event.

Before kick-off, Sharp requested a message be read to supporters ahead of the minute's applause.

The message read: "This is a minute's applause to celebrate the short life of Billy and Jade's son Luey Jacob Sharp.

"Born 27th October, taken by the angels on the 29th. Sleep tight son."

Rovers manager Dean Saunders led the tributes to Sharp after the game, saying: "He rung me and asked if he could play - he wanted to play. He wanted to score a goal for his son and his family and he was ready to go. When he said that to me I couldn't really refuse.

"You won't score a better goal than that - it's incredible. I thought 'the story's already been written. He's going to end up with a hat-trick here and we're going to win 3-0'.

"It didn't turn out that way but I'm really proud that he wanted to play and it tells you a bit about him as a man. There's not many people who would have done that."

Middlesbrough counterpart Tony Mowbray added: "Taking the professionalism out of it, I'm delighted for the boy that he's scored such a fantastic goal on such an occasion for him.

"It's amazing to think for anyone who's had children the emotional drain that must have been with him - I couldn't put it into words.

"For him to score a wonder-goal, your headlines should be there really - a goal from heaven."