FLOWERS have been laid at the gates of Hartlepool United after one of the club's players was killed in a car crash.

Midfielder Michael Maidens, 20, from Skelton, east Cleveland, died when the car he was travelling in on the A174, near Lazenby, collided with metal posts at about 8.25pm on Friday night.

Dozens of bouquets have been laid by family, friends and supporters at the club's Victoria Park ground.

Messages said "a massive loss to club and fans", "a talent taken too soon" and "you will be sadly missed, Maids, gone but not forgotten".

Saturday's Hartlepool United match away to Swansea was postponed as a mark of respect.

In a statement released by the club, a spokesman said: "It is with huge sadness that the club reports the death of Michael Maidens." It continued: "Our thoughts and best wishes are with Michael's family at this very sad time."

Pauline McSweenie, secretary of the Hartlepool United Supporters' Association, was travelling to Swansea with her family when she heard of the player's death.

She said: "I am really upset at the news. We were all going to stay in Swansea for a couple of days, but we have decided to come home.

"It just puts everything into perspective. He was so young and had so much to live for."

Hartlepool United steward Shaun Wright said: "He was so young but extremely dedicated to his football. Everyone is very shocked and I think that will continue this week."

Hartlepool United fan Andy Allen, 20, has travelled throughout the country to watch the team play.

He said: "I am gutted. He was well known at the club and it is such a loss of talent."

Another supporter, Michael Whittaker, from Hartlepool, said: "He was very much part of the set up and he had plenty of potential. It is really tragic."

Mr Maidens was a front seat passenger in a Vauxhall Corsa, which was travelling west from Lazenby towards the slip road to the A174 Parkway.

It is believed to have been the last vehicle in a convoy of others made up of friends.

A spokesman for Cleveland Police said: "As the car negotiated the slip road directly off the roundabout, it lost control and spun in the road, colliding with metal posts, causing serious damage to the car on the passenger side."

Mr Maidens scored Hartlepool's goal of the season in 2005/6 with a 25-yard rocket of a shot against Huddersfield. He had started 11 league games for the club and made 13 substitute appearances. He went on loan to York City earlier this year.

Club chief executive Russ Green said: "I think it's been a horrendous day for everyone connected with Hartlepool United Football Club. It's been an even more horrendous day for Michael's family. That's where our thoughts are.

"It has shook us all to the core - the staff, players, everyone at the club is devastated.

"We had to make a decision whether to go ahead with the game or not. The players and management staff had a meeting and we felt that nobody could go ahead and play the game.

"The passion of the lads and their friendship with Michael overcame everything.

"We were away from our environment, in a strange town.

"Although there was a tremendous togetherness when we had the meeting and discussions about the game, there was a feeling of being alone as well.

"By doing what we did, we feel that we have showed our respect for Michael and his family."

Witnesses are asked to contact police on 01642-326326.